Monday, September 18, 2023

CFP: Young Adult + Series + Romance

From the Journal of Popular Romance Studies

Proposal deadline December 1

2023 marks the fortieth anniversary of the initial publication of Sweet Valley High. While Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield may rank amongst the best-known teen romance heroines, the texts themselves exist within a much larger pantheon of series books intended for or read by teens, and featuring romance narratives. The Journal of Popular Romance Studies (JPRS) seeks articles for a special issue devoted to young adult series romance. These articles may focus on YA series romance from any historical period or language context, and may derive from any relevant discipline, including interdisciplinary approaches.

Possible topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • the relationship between young adult literature, series novels, and popular romance
  • ideology within YA series romance
  • literary precursors to YA series romance
  • midcentury series romances aimed at teens
  • 80s and 90s teen romance series, such as Wildfire, Young Love, First Love, or Sweet Dreams series
  • legacies of Sweet Valley High or other YA series romance in current YA romance
  • positive or problematic representations of identity (including race, gender, sexuality, and disability) within YA series romance
  • YA series romance in global perspective
  • sex (or potentially the lack of sex) in YA romance series
  • ghostwriters and/or corporate constructions of teen romance series
  • teen responses to YA romance series
  • YA romance series within fanworks and fandom
  • teacher or librarian reaction to and/or use of YA romance series
  • pedagogical approaches to using YA romance series within the classroom (at any level)
For more details see JPRS.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

CFP: PCA's 2024 National Conference - March 27-30, 2024

 The Romance Subject Area has a call for papers for this conference:

 

Call For Papers - Ugly Love

When critical attention to romance rebooted in the 21st century, the new wave of scholars made a conscious decision to move away from the often-pejorative approaches of earlier critics and focus instead on romance’s strengths:  an emphasis on women’s pleasure, for example, and models of good communication.

However, romance is an emotion-centered genre, and the sentiments it explores include such ugly feelings as jealousy, envy, and a thirst for vengeance. Ugly themes and ugly tropes also abound (see, for instance, the bully romance, or the recuperation of Nazis as romantic heroes), as well as plentiful examples of ugly behaviors in media cultures surrounding romance (such as the recent sexual harassment scandal that erupted around a section of hockey romance fans on TikTok).

The theme of the PCA Romance area in 2024 is the ugly in romance and romantic media. We encourage you to define this theme broadly, and to think not just about specific texts but also about their creators, consumers and critics, to understand the broader discussions in which these texts are implicated.

We also encourage you to move away from decisionist and diagnostic approaches that seek to position texts on a spectrum of progressivism to conservatism. Our aim in raising this topic for exploration is not to pass judgment, but to enable deep thinking in the scholarly community – to ask questions that go beyond asking whether texts and tropes are “good” or “bad” and think in more nuanced, layered ways about their affordances and the work they perform.

Possible topics on this theme could include:

·      negative emotions, affect theory, and romance

·      tropes: enemies to loves, the other woman, etc.

·      Taming of the Shrew and its remakes

·      erotica and fantasies of submission:  the legacy of Fifty Shades 

·      the villain hero, the criminal hero, the morally grey hero

·      criminal dyads:  Bonnie and Clyde, etc.

·      ugly scandals in book and media culture

·      cheating, lying, and misbehaving love interests

·      break-up revenge songs

·      jealousy in poly romance

·      bully romance, mafia romance, stalker romance, dark romance

·      fantasies of sexual coercion

·      degradation

·      the eroticised abject and/or the eroticised disgusting

·      hate reading and/or hate watching

·      extreme confession/memoir (ex. Bentley's The Surrender, The Story of O, etc.)

·      transactional sex

·      dirty talk

·      ugly emotion and the therapeutic romance

If none of these suggestions appeal, or you simply want to pursue your own intellectual passion, you are very welcome to do so.

-----

More details can be found here. The full CFP has also been cross-posted to IASPR. I think you may have to be/become a member of the PCA in order to submit a proposal.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

CFP: 2024 Conference on Love Studies

Conference on Love Studies, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Canary Islands), January 2-7, 2024

They're looking for papers about love:

We consider love in its broad meaning, including different modes and types of love, and various contexts from those that inhibit to those that facilitate the experience and expression of love. Among the variations implied above are:

  • Love at the nature of humans and humanity, philosophy of love, good and bad sides of love
  • Familial love, maternal love, paternal love, the love of children for their parents
  • Love as interpersonal attachment, and pair-bonding love
  • Romantic love, passionate love, obsessional love, lovesickness
  • Love, physical attraction, sex, and diversity of sexual love
  • Companionate, compassionate love, love for friends, and friendship
  • Diversity of polygamy and monogamy in love, polyamory, and open relationships
  • Rational, practical, pragmatic forms of love
  • Love focused on divine and supernatural entities, religious conceptions of love
  • Love as positive social connection, communal and ideological love
  • Para-social forms of love and sex
  • Love directed to oneself, self-love, and narcissism
  • Love for pets and inanimate beings (flowers, money, activities, etc.)
  • The biology and physiology of love
  • The various other types of love and relationships, including those at an intersection between them
Any kind of love is of interest for this conference.

The International Advisory Board has extended the deadline for submission of proposals for presentations at the International Conference on Love Studies, which will be held in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Canary Islands) on January 2-7, 2024 (both in-person and virtual formats).

The extended deadline is September 10th, Sunday. See the details at https://love-studies-institute.org/international-conference-on-love-studies/

Sunday, August 20, 2023

New Publications: Masculinity, Race, Sexuality and More

There are a couple of anecdotes from 

Joshua Thorburn (2023). "Exiting the Manosphere. A Gendered Analysis of Radicalization, Diversion and Deradicalization Narratives from r/IncelExit and r/ExRedPill." Studies in Conflict & Terrorism.

which I wanted to share. The whole article's open access, from https://doi.org/10.1080/1057610X.2023.2244192

Amusingly, one user on r/ExRedPill stated that his deradicalization journey was prompted by reading “soppy romance novels” targeted for women, while in concurrence, another replied that romantic poems and historical period dramas helped him question his red pill beliefs. Because this media focused on romance beyond sexual gratification alone, and the fact that it was either popular with women or targeted towards them, such materials again therefore challenged manosphere claims that women are exclusively driven by an innate desire for the physical attributes of so-called alpha-males. (17-18)

On the topic of men/masculinities, I missed Jonathan Allan's Men, Masculinities, and Infertilities when it first came out in 2022, but the good news is that it's also downloadable for free, from https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003010432 or https://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/57071 and includes a chapter each on LaVyrle Spencer's The Fulfillment and The Trouble with Joe by Emilie Richards.

Giovanni, Chiara (2023). "Hetero Ever After? Romance Novels, Race, and the Limits of Social Dreaming." Post45. ["Chiara Giovanni shows that popular romance novels by and about women of color often indulge a positive orientation toward heterosexual desire. Giovanni calls this orientation "heteroidealism" and sees it as an adaptive strategy to forge solidarity between men and women along racial lines."]

Heying, Sarah M. (2023). "Sealed With a Kiss on Your Artery": An Archive of Southern Lesbian Desire. PhD thesis, University of Mississippi. [This isn't specifically about romance but it does have a chapter on Ann Allen Shockley. More details here.]
 
Kamblé, Jayashree (2023). "The origins of U.S. mass-market category romance novels: Black editors and writers in the early 1980s." The Journal of American Culture. [This hasn't yet been added to a volume, so the pagination available now isn't as it will eventually appear, but it's available (albeit behind a paywall) from here. I've collected some key quotes here.]

Leenstra, Lisa (2023). Covers of Lovers: A Multimodal Comparison of the Front Covers of Romance Novels in 2011 and 2021. Masters thesis, Universiteit Utrecht.  

Nichols, Sue (2023). "Love matters: the case for an inclusive, contemporary approach to romance themes and texts in subject English." The Australian Journal of Language and Literacy. [This is about teaching YA romance/romantic fiction to future teachers of English.]

Stobaugh, Rebecca (2023). Halfway-Sexual: Exploring Demisexuality in American Literature. PhD, Louisiana State University. [This is embargoed until 2030 but apparently discusses Fifty Shades of Grey and Jack Byrne’s Ace. The abstract can be found here.]

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Call for Papers: NEPCA fully virtual conference in October

The 2023 Northeast Popular Culture Association (NEPCA) will host its annual conference this fall as a virtual conference from Thursday, October 12-Saturday, October 14. See https://nepca.blog/2023-annual-conference/

The conference includes a romance/popular romance fiction area, which has put out a call for papers:


Romance/Popular Romance Fiction
Current Chair: Wendy Wagner, Johnson & Wales, Wendy.Wagner@jwu.edu

This area invites proposals relating to romance fiction and its influence and adaptations in popular culture. Romance Writers of America, the professional organization of romance authors, identifies two specific features of romance fiction: a central love story, and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. Romance novels generate $1B of sales each year, and the reach of the romance narrative permeates a variety of popular culture texts, from movies and television to music and comics. This area welcomes submissions from variety of disciplinary perspectives. Topics may include:

  • History of the romance novel
  • Analysis of romance readers
  • The romance novel across cultures
  • Romance tropes
  • Politics and activism in the romance community
  • Film and television adaptations
  • Romance fandom and “shipping”
  • The economics of the romance novel industry
  • Portrayals of romance authors in popular culture
  • Controversies in the publication of romance novels
  • Romance book clubs
  • New media and romance novels
  • Library and archival collections of romance fiction

That's here (scroll down the page). Submissions are open until 11:59pm on Monday, August 14 (EST) and there are more details about how to submit a proposal etc here.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Talk by Jayashree Kamblé about her new book: 22 September

Creating Identity: The Popular Romance Heroine’s Journey to Selfhood and Self-Presentation

This is the cover of "Creating Identity." It's black and white and shows a female figure at the sea shore.

Both in person and via Zoom, on Friday, September 22, 2023 | 6pm to 7:30pm

In Creating Identity, Prof. Jayashree Kamblé examines the romance genre, with its sensile flexibility in retaining what audiences find desirable and discarding what is not, by asking an important question: “Who is the romance heroine, and what does she want?” To find the answer, Kamblé explores how heroines in ten novels reject societal labels and instead remake themselves on their own terms with their own agency. Using a truly intersectional approach, Kamblé combines gender and sexuality, Marxism, critical race theory, and literary criticism to survey various aspects of heroines’ identities, such as sexuality, gender, work, citizenship, and race.

Ideal for readers interested in gender studies and literary criticism, Creating Identity highlights a genre in which heroines do not accept that independence and strong, loving relationships are mutually exclusive but instead demand both, echoing the call from the very readers who have made this genre so popular.

You have to register in advance in order to attend. The links to do so are here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Not Just for Academics! Free Romance Conference at Yale in September

A green graphic with a line drawing of a hand holding a book. The text says "Popular Romance Fiction: The Literature of Hope,  September 8-9, 2023,  A free, interactive conference at Yale University"
 

Popular Romance Fiction: the “Literature of Hope” is a conference event occurring on Friday, September 8 - Saturday, September 9, 2023 at Yale University. This interactive gathering brings bestselling romance writers together with scholars, students, readers, and the public for two days of conversation and events at Yale and in the New Haven community about the nation’s most popular literary genre. Through discussion panels, a romance writing workshop,  documentary screening, historical exhibition, Elm City LIT Fest collaboration, a special keynote event, and more, we examine romance fiction in expansive ways that move at and beyond its surface appearances, exploring its political, material, racial, feminist, and religious histories and manifestations. Confirmed speakers include Roxane Gay, Adriana Herrera, Eloisa James, Beverly Jenkins, Julie Moody-Freeman, Sarah MacLean, Radclyffe, and others.

The conference includes:

How to Write a Romance Novel Workshop with Adriana Herrera and Sarah MacLean 

Love Between the Covers (2015) documentary screening followed by "talk-back with documentarian Laurie Kahn and writers from film Eloisa James, Beverly Jenkins, and Radclyffe on writer experience, making the film, romance as a literary vehicle of hope, and how Romancelandia has changed since the film, with attention to class, race, sexuality, gender, and more."

Book signing

“Popular Romance Fiction: the ‘Literature of Hope’ ” - Keynote conversation between Roxane Gay and Beverly Jenkins on romance and the power and politics of hope.

The full programme and more details can be found here. One of the organisers says that "The program and website will be updated with more details in the coming weeks, so please check back in August for more exciting info."

Friday, July 14, 2023

Survey: Romance Reading and the Pandemic

Anne O'Reilly, Assistant Professor, Electronic Resources Librarian at LaGuardia Community College, who describes herself as "a budding romance researcher [...] interested in romance readership" needs help from romance readers willing to fill in a survey.

With "Romancing the Pandemic: Do Our Reading Habits Change During Times of Stress?" I hope to assess the reading habits of romance readers prior to the pandemic (before March 2020), during the pandemic, and as we return to normalcy (the present). If you could spend some time taking it, I'd really appreciate it.

The survey can be found here.  She says it's been "approved by my institution’s (CUNY) IRB board" and she initially posted the request to a private IASPR Discord group I'm on, but I can't link to that directly.

A quick search shows there's been quite a bit of interest in romance reading during the pandemic. Book Riot, for example, carried out a survey in 2021 and in 2022 Oxford University Press published Reading Novels During the Covid-19 Pandemic by Ben Davies, Christina Lupton, and Johanne Gormsen Schmidt. Anne's survey, though, is trying to find out how reading may have changed over time up to the present. It aims:

to assess the reading habits of romance readers prior to the pandemic (before March 2020), during the pandemic, and as we return to normalcy (the present). It is the hope of this researcher to answer the following questions:

1.) Did non-romance readers, or readers who read very little of the genre, read more romance during the pandemic?
2.) Did these readers continue to read as much romance as we return to normalcy? Or are they reverting to reading habits prior to the pandemic?
3.) Did reading romance make readers feel better during the pandemic?
4.) Reading romance is usually deemed a “guilty pleasure.” Did that change during the pandemic? Now that we return to normalcy, has that guilt returned?

This researcher hopes the results of the survey may show that what we read and how much we read changes during times of great stress. It may also change the way we read when we are unable to access certain content (i.e., printed materials). Romance is often a genre that is not treated with as much credibility as other genres. If this survey reveals the broad range of readers seeking out the romance genre during times of uncertainty, would this perhaps elevate the genre?

As I mentioned, the full survey can be found here if you'd like to respond.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

IASPR Conference and New Publications: Climate Change, Migration, Readers, History, Libraries


The IASPR conference starts tomorrow and the schedule (with abstracts of the papers to be presented) is available for download here: https://www.iaspr.org/conferences/schedule-romance-revitalised/ . The topics for the various panels include: Booktok, Black Romance, Historical Romance, Love Studies, Paranormal Romance, Queer Romance and much more!


The conference will also see the launch of Jayashree Kamblé's new book, Creating Identity The Popular Romance Heroine's Journey to Selfhood and Self-Presentation (which you can read more about here).

In addition, this week only, the ebook version of Publishing Romance Fiction in the Philippines by Jodi McAlister, Claire Parnell  and Andrea Anne Trinidad, which was published earlier this year by Cambridge University Press, is available for free download here.

Here's a list of some other recent publications:

Ali, Kecia (2023). "The End of the World as We Know It: Climate Catastrophe in Nalini Singh's Paranormal Romance Fiction." The Journal of the Core Curriculum: An Annual Literary and Academic Anthology in the College of Arts and Sciences at Boston University 32:81-86. [At the time of adding this to the list, the 2023 volume of this journal wasn't yet available online.]

Burge, Amy (2023). "Romantic Love across Borders: Marriage Migration in Popular Romance Fiction." Contemporary Love Studies in the Arts and Humanities: What's Love Got To Do With It? Ed. Madalena Grobbelaar, Elizabeth Reid Boyd and Debra Dudek. Cham, Switzerland: Springer. 39-49. [Abstract]

Parks, Amy Noelle (2023). "The Feminist Possibilities of Heteroglossic Spaces in Contemporary Young Adult Romance Novels." Journal of Popular Romance Studies 12.

Phipps, Catherine (2023). "‘The Machine for Showing Desire’: Desert Romance Fiction and Knowing Sexual Desire." Historical Research, Creative Writing, and the Past: Methods of Knowing. Ed. Kevin A. Morrison and Pälvi Rantala. New York: Routledge. [Abstract and Excerpt]

Veros, Vassiliki (2023). "Nobody Puts Romance Fiction in the Corner: Public Librarians in New South Wales and Their Dalliance with Romance Fiction." Journal of Popular Romance Studies 12.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Free Book: Readers in Context, Sheffield UK 1929-1955

The cover of Steel City by Mary Grover features a photograph of a young girl in a library, selecting some books to read

Grover, Mary (2023).
Steel City Readers: Reading for Pleasure in Sheffield, 1925-1955. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

With the exception of Mairead Owen's (1990) thesis, I haven't come across a lot of work which relates to UK romance readers. Mary Grover's new book doesn't focus on romance, but it is open access and available free for download and it provides important insight into a group of readers whose stories would otherwise have been lost to the academic record. She interviewed "65 men and women who shared their reading histories with the community history group ‘Reading Sheffield’ between 2011 and 2019" and

All were born before 1946. Their reading memories were collected by the community history group, ‘Reading Sheffield’, between 2011 and 2019. These readers were born in a time of economic depression followed by wartime and post-war austerity. They grew up in an industrial city which for most of the twentieth century set little store by bookish or clerkly skills. Yet they developed a habit of reading that changed their lives, personally, culturally and economically. How and why did this happen?

There isn't a lot specifically about romance novels, because the focus is on readers and where/how/why they obtained their reading material but I've collected the quotes specifically about the genre here. If you're interested in the history of Sheffield/libraries/reading, this is definitely worth a look.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Free Book (for a Limited Time Only): Publishing Romance Fiction in the Philippines

This is just an image of the cover of the book. It's very plain: dark green with a giant ampersand on it, title and names of authors.


Jodi McAlister, Claire Parnell and Andrea Anne Trinidad's Publishing Romance Fiction in the Philippines has just been published by Cambridge University Press and "is free online from 19th May 2023 - 2nd June 2023." You can download it from https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009092289 by clicking on the "save pdf" button which appears directly below the summary.

Here's some more information about the book:

The romance publishing landscape in the Philippines is vast and complex, characterised by entangled industrial players, diverse kinds of texts, and siloed audiences. This Element maps the large, multilayered, and highly productive sector of the Filipino publishing industry. It explores the distinct genre histories of romance fiction in this territory and the social, political and technological contexts that have shaped its development. It also examines the close connections between romance publishing and other media sectors alongside unique reception practices. It takes as a central case study the Filipino romance self-publishing collective #RomanceClass, analysing how they navigate this complex local landscape as well as the broader international marketplace. The majority of scholarship on romance fiction exclusively focuses on the Anglo-American industry. By focusing here on the Philippines, the authors hope to disrupt this phenomenon, and to contribute to a more decentred, rhizomatic approach to understanding this genre world.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Nora Roberts and Book Banning

From the Washington Post:

in Martin County, Fla. The school district there recently decided to yank from its high school library circulation eight novels by Nora Roberts that are not “pornography” at all — largely prompted by objections from a single woman who also happens to be a Moms for Liberty activist. [...]

This signals a new trend: Book banners are increasingly going after a wide variety of titles, including romance novels, under the guise of targeting “pornography.” That term is a very flexible one — deliberately so, it appears — and it is sweeping ever more broadly to include books that can’t be described as such in any reasonable sense. [...]

All this shows that red-state book crackdowns are designed to whip up frenzies of book-banning zealotry. Vaguely defined directives enable lone actors to purge whole stacks of books based on frivolous rationales, encouraging parents to hunt for offending books and officials to err on the side of removal. A new PEN America report found nearly 1,500 instances of schools banning books during the first half of the 2022-2023 year, increasingly based on them supposedly containing “pornography.”

“Activists and politicians are inflating the notion of what constitutes ‘pornography’ beyond all recognition,” Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression at PEN, told us. They are going after “romance books, books about puberty or sex education and books that just have LGBTQ characters.”

In related news, on 23 April the 

The EveryLibrary Institute, a national nonprofit focused on public policy and libraries, is proud to announce that bestselling author Nora Roberts and the Nora Roberts Foundation have made a generous donation to support the launch of Fight for the First, its new advocacy and organizing site with a mission of protecting the First Amendment in libraries across the country.

The situation is somewhat different in the UK, but nonetheless,

Research carried out by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (Cilip), the UK’s library and information association, found that a third of librarians had been asked by members of the public to censor or remove books, indicating that such incidents “had increased significantly in recent years”, according to Cilip’s chief executive, Nick Poole. The most targeted books involve empire, race and LGBTQ+ themes. (The Guardian)

[Edited later on 28 April to add something AztecLady noted elsewhere on this topic: in the second half of 2022

The romance writer Nora Roberts [...] donated $50,000 to a Michigan library that was defunded in August after it refused to remove a number of LGBTQ+ books from its shelves.

Roberts, an award-winning author of more than 225 romance novels, made the contribution late last month via an online fundraising campaign for the Patmos Library in Jamestown Township, Michigan. (The Hill)

]

Monday, April 24, 2023

Blogger's Guidelines Affecting Teach Me Tonight

We've had two posts placed behind a content warning now. The first was of a post written many years ago, discussing a book which I can accept had a title/contents which were definitely what might have been classified as for adults. However, my last post was just a round-up of recent publications and it had nothing in it at all unsafe for work or that would have been unsuitable for small children to see, unless small children aren't even allowed to know of the existence of certain words/concepts.

As far as I can tell, it would at best be difficult to challenge Blogger's decisions on such matters and at worst I'd have to make a huge effort and the decision would still stand. I don't know how many posts will be hidden in future but I'm pretty much only posting details of new publications to notify readers of those, so I'm assuming that everyone who's interested will click through.

I'd be interested to know what regular readers of TMT think. Comments, by the way, are pre-moderated due to the amount of spam we were getting.

All the best,

Laura

New Publications: Beefcake, Bridgerton, Gender, Ecocriticism, Publishing, Adaptation

 

The full schedule of the 2023 conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance is now online. The conference itself is taking place from 28-30 June.

---

Here are the new publications, which I've added to the Romance Scholarship Database:

Allan, Jonathan A. (2023). "Softcore romance: on naked heroes and beefcakes in popular romance novels." **** Studies. [Some quotes and link here. I'm trying to avoid getting caught in a Blogger filter so I'm starring out words I think might trigger it.]

Davisson, Amber and Kyra Hunting (2023). " From private pleasure to erotic spectacle: Adapting Bridgerton to female audience desires."  Journal of Popular Television 11.1:7-25. [I've not been able to access this, but the abstract can be found here. It's part of a special issue about the television version of the Bridgerton novels.]

Hanson, Donna Maree (2022). Romance fiction as a bridge to understanding changing gender roles in society. PhD in Creative Writing, University of Canberra. 

[The dissertation is partly a discussion of two surveys carried out in 2016/2017, one with romance readers and the other with romance authors, with a view to understanding their attitudes towards feminism. The full dissertation is available via a link provided on the page to which I've linked above.] 

Pérez-Gil, María del Mar (2023). "Mass Tourism, Ecocriticism, and Mills & Boon Romances (1970s-1980s)." Green Letters: Studies in Ecocriticism.

Reed, Eleanor (2023). Woman's Weekly and Lower-Middle-Class Domestic Culture in Britain, 1918-1958: Making Homemakers Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. [More details here.]

Sharma, Vishal, Kirsten Bray, Neha Kumar, and Rebecca E. Grinter. 2023. “It Takes (at least) Two: The Work to Make Romance Work.” In Proceedings of the 2023 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’23), April 23–28, 2023, Hamburg, Germany. ACM, New York, NY, USA.

This discusses the work involved in self-publishing romance. It notes that:

While white participants reported using pen-names to separate their writer identity from their personal one, our participants of color undertook much more significant identity management. In addition to adopting white-sounding pen names, they mentioned about how race influenced their story lines and characters. Digital platforms, and the need they create for writers to engage with readers, surface questions of how they become arenas in which some are excluded while others are privileged based on whether it is possible for everyone to engage equally (e.g. whether everyone can use video for conversations).  [...] Romance novelists continue to confront issues of racism within the community, and our research suggests another dimension to this reckoning, which shows how the tools writers use perpetuate or even exacerbate discrimination.

Wells, Juliette (2022). "Afterword: Sex, Romance, and Representation in Uzma Jalaluddin’s Ayesha at Last." Jane Austen, Sex, and Romance: Engaging with Desire in the Novels and Beyond. Ed. Nora Nachumi and Stephanie Oppenheim. University of Rochester Press. Rochester, NY. 243-252. [Some quotes and links here.]

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

News, Commentary, Registration for IASPR 2023 and New Publications

The closing date for early-bird registration for the IASPR conference is 31 March. There's a hybrid as well as an in-person option.

The BBC has published an article with the annoying premise that, as the most formulaic genre of popular fiction, romance is presumably the most at risk of being produced by artificial intelligence. However, the article does also mention that

Last year, sales of romantic fiction in the US shot up by 52.4%, compared with an increase of just 8.5% for adult fiction overall.

Meanwhile, sales of the genre in the UK have increased more than two fold over the past three years.

Erin at The Smut Report explores the preponderance of penetrative sex in m/m romance and concludes that 

Sexual fantasy and wish fulfillment is all over the place in romance. But while wish fulfillment and smoothing out rough edges (I mean, is douching sexy? Apparently not, because—while showers are prolific—these guys never do it.) is one indisputable component of genre romance, it also often contributes to certain groups of readers feeling invisible. Fantasy is great and all, but sometimes it would be nice also to stop the barrage of input that maybe something’s broken because one hasn’t met one’s perfect Romance Novel Partner yet, and that’s why one struggles to orgasm / doesn’t enjoy penetration / doesn’t enjoy sex at all / fill in the blank.

And on the topic of inaccuracies/fantasies, Scientific American offers a reminder that wolves generally do not behave the way that shifter/werewolf romances imply they do: "The idea that wolf packs are led by a merciless dictator, or alpha wolf, comes from old studies of captive wolves. In the wild, wolf packs are simply families."

This year's issue of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies has begun to appear online, and includes:

Other recently published works on romance are:

Burge, Amy (2022) "Beyond Outlander: Annie S. Swan and the Scottish popular romance novel." Scottish Literary Review 14.2:1-19 [I've linked to the entry at the Romance Scholarship Database as there's both an official version (behind a paywall) and a free, pre-print version.]

Cannon, Emanni N (2022). Contemporary Romance and the Question of Literary Value. Master of Arts in English Literature, San Francisco State University. 

Ghosh, Srijani (2023). "Diversity Sells: Uzma Jalaluddin’s Muslim Adaptation of Pride and Prejudice." English Studies. Online First. [Abstract]

Lindström Kruse, Miranda (2022). Pinsamma läsningar: En affektteoretisk studie av #SpicyBooks på TikTok. Masters thesis, Uppsala universitet. 

McDade, Monique (2023). California Dreams and American Contradictions: Women Writers and the Western Ideal. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. [There is a chapter on Eva Rutland, and though the focus is not on her romance novels, this is the first significant academic work about her. See the RSDB for more details.]

Pupipat, Apisak (2023). "Should a Book Be Judged by its Back Cover? Some Written/Formal Features as Observed in Happily- Ever-After Women’s Novel Blurbs." LEARN Journal: Language Education and Acquisition Research Network 16.1:604-630.

Rattanamathuwong, Bancha (2023). "Time Is on Our Side?: Homo Economicus in Time-Travel Romance." Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction. [Abstract]

Monday, February 06, 2023

A snippet of romance history

This is probably not very interesting, but since I came across it, I thought I might as well share, since it provides some insight into romance publishing in the 1970s and (possibly, since this is very outdated) some suggestions about how writing romance can help improve other types of writing. It's the opening paragraphs of

Reid, Joy. 1995. "Developing ESL Writing Materials for Publication or Writing as a Learning Experience." Material Writer's Guide. Ed. Patrica Byrd. New York: Heinle & Heinle Publishers. 64-78.
https://archive.org/details/materialwritersg0000unse/page/64/

My initial experience with book publishing came not with my first ESL [English as a Second Language] composition textbook but rather with two “pristine” romances. I was teaching a continuing education literature course when one of the nontraditional students approached me and suggested that we should write a book together. She was interested in the romance genre, which I had never read. So I read a dozen, and I thought, “Shucks. I could write one of these.” The eventual result was Orchids for Hilary, a manuscript we mailed (under our pseudonym, Shannon Sayer), uninvited, to the top publisher, Harlequin Romances. Three months later we received a letter indicating that Harlequin would accept the manuscript. Because we had visions of a long and lucrative career as romance writers, we began to write a second romance. Several months passed and we heard again from Harlequin; this time we were informed that there had been a change of editors and a change of mind — our heroine was too competent, the letter stated. Depressed, my coauthor dropped out. In some desperation, I investigated Literary Marketplace, the reference book that lists and describes publishers alphabetically. I mailed Orchids to Avalon Books (the first potential publisher I encountered), and then completed Summer of Pearls. Both manuscripts were published; I never saw either galleys or page proofs — the little, Nancy Drew-like hardbacks simply arrived. The wealth and fame I had anticipated evaporated, and I discovered that sitting alone in my living room, without the pleasures of collaboration, trying to think about what my characters were eating and wearing, was really boring work.


In retrospect, my coauthor and I should have sought out an agent to market and negotiate for us; unlike authors in the world of textbooks, most first-time fiction authors work through an agent. In addition, we should have fired off an immediate reply to the new editor’s letter, asking for specifics about how to revise our manuscript in order to fulfill her expectations. But we didn’t know enough about publishing to do that, and so the opportunity passed. Occasionally I receive a small check when one or the other book is translated into Swedish or used by a British soap opera; otherwise the books served only as a learning experience, particularly about my own writing and about the teaching of academic discourse. Writing “recipe” romances, for example, forced me to reexamine my own prose: to eliminate semicolons (successful romance writers do not use them), to embed short strings of descriptive adjectives (difficult for an academic writer), to be alert for “the less I know, the more I write” syndrome, and to recognize my tendency to use multisyllabic words when inspiration (and clear, short vocabulary) evade me. As a result of what I learned about my own prose, I found that in my native English speaker (NES) and ESL classes I was better able to analyze discourse, audience, and genres in ways that made my teaching of the processes and products of academic prose clearer. (64-65)

Orchids for Hilary was published in 1978 and can be found online here. I haven't read it to see what the second Harlequin editor considered to be "too competent."

Saturday, February 04, 2023

Romance and Quantitative Literary Studies

Katherine Bode's review article titled "Why You Can’t Model Away Bias" (2020) is about Ted Underwood's Distant Horizons: Digital Evidence and Literary Change (2019). Neither are about romance, but I thought some readers might be intrigued by part of Bode's article which uses romance to rebut one of Underwood's claims:

In chapter 4 Underwood employs a data set derived from HathiTrust to identify a decline in the proportion of English-language fiction by women from around 50 percent of titles in the late nineteenth century to roughly 20 percent by 1970 before a reversion to a bit under half of all titles at the end of the twentieth century. Noting that elite university and public library collections may have simply collected more books by men than by women, Underwood seeks to test whether this bias influenced his results by comparing the proportions of male and female authors in HathiTrust to those in manual samples from four years of Publishers Weekly listings. Because the Publishers Weekly samples indicate an even more dramatic fall in women’s writing, Underwood claims that the comparison “addresses . . . doubts” about “how well . . . those collections represent the wider world of fiction” (135). While Publishers Weekly incorporates a great deal of popular fiction that does not figure in academic collections, it indexes almost no titles by even the most prominent and prolific popular romance fiction publisher of the twentieth century, Mills and Boon. Women authors predominate in this genre, and its heyday—the 1950s to the 1970s—corresponds with the most dramatic decline in the proportional representation of women authors and characters in Underwood’s results.

To explore how much the exclusion of romance fiction may have influenced his results, figure 1 amends Underwood’s figure 4.9 (134), using data on Australian women’s novels from 1945 to 2000. If American and British women wrote romance fiction at levels similar to that recorded in the Australian context, then rates of fiction by women would remain relatively flat through the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, at levels equivalent to that found at the turn of the twentieth century. There would be a decline in women’s fiction in the 1970s, but a less dramatic one than Underwood reports, and the general trend across the twentieth century would be fairly stable or growing. The Australian data thus undermine Underwood’s conjecture that the decline in female characterization was due to a decline in women authors of fiction, and expose the fragility of inferences based on literary data sets that have not been adequately historicized. I am not saying that my results show what actually happened; I am using them here as another sample. My point is that comparing two—or three or four or five or however many—samples cannot rule out similar biases in them, nor can it define the degree or limits of bias introduced by sampling methods.

I'm not qualified to give any opinion on the methodology used by either Bode or Underwood but I was a little perplexed by Bode's statement that the "heyday" of romance fiction was "the 1950s to the 1970s." Certainly as far as the US market is concerned, The Flame and the Flower (published in 1972) is credited as starting a new era in popular romance.

Also, Bode refers to Mills & Boon, but I think that Publishers Weekly is an American publication, so I would imagine that if Mills & Boon were going to be included there, they'd have been published by Harlequin. Was Bode unaware that Mills & Boon novels were published by Harlequin in the North American market? Or is Bode correct in identifying a lack of romance in the data and PW didn't include Harlequin romances?

Anyway, it's always wise to be aware that there may be problems with data (e.g. as discussed with regards to bestseller lists here).

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Thursday, January 12, 2023

CFP: Revisiting Radway

With thanks to Azteclady, who alerted me to this call for papers/submissions:

Still Reading Romance

deadline for submissions: March 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: Kathleen Kollman

Editors: Josefine Smith, Shippensburg University, jmsmith@ship.edu; and Kathleen Kollman, Miami University, kollmak@miamioh.edu 

Overview: Based on initial research performed by Janice Radway for her groundbreaking work, Reading the Romance (U of NC Press, 1984), this collection’s co-editor Josefine Smith designed an updated version of Radway’s survey, targeting romance novel readers. After two distributions, the result was over 300 responses and a raw data set which is now shareable to interested contributors to this volume. This survey includes questions on the following topics: Romance Reading Habits, the Romance Genre, the New Adult Fiction Subgenre, and Demographics.

Contributors will be free to analyze the data through whatever relevant lenses they choose, with an eye toward exploring how mores, interests, readership, and the romance novel itself has changed and developed over the nearly forty years since Radway conducted her original research. This will be a book-length peer-reviewed volume. Contributors from all disciplines are welcome and encouraged to submit, and the editors are interested in all types of research methods and theoretical perspectives. Both affiliated and independent scholars are encouraged to submit, as are early-career researchers.

Topics of particular interest include:

  • Women and gender studies research

  • Reader response research

  • Mixed methods research that spins off from the original survey

  • Direct comparison with Radway’s original research

  • Shifting cultural norms in popular fiction representation

  • Genre theory research

  • Romance novel readers’ engagement with feminism and gender equity.

This is not an exhaustive list.

For more information see https://call-for-papers.sas.upenn.edu/cfp/2022/09/19/still-reading-romance 

The call for papers does say that people thinking of submitting can ask to see the data in advance, which I think is helpful as it may be that potential contributors might have issues with the questions, spot something they wouldn't have expected in the data etc and that would affect their submission.

I don't know the editors, but I did find one paper by Kathleen Kollman in the RSDB (it was a paper presented to a conference at Bowling Green University in 2018).

Friday, January 06, 2023

More recent/forthcoming publications: Goodreads, good reading, governesses and sheikhs

I accidentally missed an item off my previous list of new publications:

Turner, Ellen and Cecilia Wadsö Lecaros, Cecilia (2022). “The desert-governess romance: Regency England meets exotic Arabia.” Lund Journal of English Studies 4:1-24.

And since I've started this post, I thought I might as well add a few snippets from an article which isn't primarily about romance but does include some findings about romance readers. I get the impression that the authors of the article aren't judging readers, they're just pointing out that  few people are really reading as widely as is claimed (but not by them) to be "good" for you.

In the Introduction to Literary Studies and Human Flourishing, the editors, James F. English and Heather Love, describe the article like this:

English, Enderle, and Dhakecha find that ordinary readers are encouraged to take joy and solace from ways of reading that are sharply at odds with what is positively valued - deemed to be "good for you" - in academic literary studies. The team's study of many thousands of ratings and reviews on the Goodreads social reading site suggests that the vast majority of readers turn to literature to enjoy the repeatable satisfactions of a single favored genre such as romance, mystery, or science fiction. Even Goodreads users who describe their attachment to reading in the academically approved terms of an eclectic openness to new kinds of literary encounter appear actually to seek the comforts of belonging to a narrow community of shared tastes. (14)

In the article itself, English, Enderle, and Dhakecha write that:

readers who favor romance novels [...] are the most balkanized, the least omnivorous, and the most distant from readers who favor literary fiction [...]. The readers of literary fiction would themselves be as sharply segregated as romance readers were it not for the blurry borderland they share with readers of historical fiction [...]. The extreme lack of affinity between the romance and literary groups conforms with a classic high/low social division, romance being the least critically respected of all popular genres and literary fiction being in a sense a tautological category consisting of precisely those novels that attract critical regard. The strong affinity [...] between literary fiction and historical fiction conforms with what we know about the increasingly close relationship between critical status and historical setting on the contemporary literary field. And these patterns [...] conform with a conventional gender hierarchy. Women are a clear majority of Goodreads fiction readers in general, but we find them most heavily concentrated, approaching 100%, in romance. (52)

They do raise questions, though, about the "academically approved [...] eclectic openness to new kinds of literary encounter":  "shouldn't we [...] direct some critical vigilance toward the orthodoxy of eclecticism itself? When exactly did the heterogeneity of one's reading become the measure of one's readerly health?" (59). Unfortunately the book's not been published yet, so I wasn't able to read any further to see if they provide any answers to those questions.

What I did find was the authors' website where you can find an interactive graph of their findings.

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English, James F., Scott Enderle, and Rahul Dhakecha. "Bad Habits on Goodreads? Eclecticism vs. Genre-Intolerance among Online Readers." Literary Studies and Human Flourishing, Ed. James F. English and Heather Love. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2023. 35-62. [Excerpt here.]

Thursday, January 05, 2023

News and New Publications: Publishing Woe, a Forthcoming Book on the Romance Heroine's Journey, etc

I've now left Twitter but I can still be contacted via my website, via responses to posts here, and I'm also on Mastodon as @lauravivanco@romancelandia.club .

I would say "Happy New Year!" but SmartBitchesTrashy Books is reporting that

It’s a bleak time in the professional world of media and book publishing.

The Harper Collins Union remains on strike after more than a month, and HarperCollins is refusing to negotiate. Publishing shuts down at Christmas, so it’s likely they’ll be on strike into next year. [...]

There are layoffs happening at so many publications, too, including in books coverage. BuzzFeed has laid off a portion of their workforce, including their books editor, Farrah Penn.

And Gannett, parent to USA Today, laid off a portion of their workforce, including Mary Cadden, who compiled the USA Today bestseller list

To continue the bleak midwinter theme, Jezebel is reporting that 

In October 2020, a post on indie romance author Susan Meachen’s Facebook page, allegedly written by her daughter, announced that Meachen had tragically died by suicide a month earlier. This news was followed by more posts from Meachen’s “daughter” (on Meachen’s account) in the author’s private writers group, The Ward, suggesting her mother took her own life because her peers in the online indie book community bullied her.

In light of this horrible news, authors and online friends helped fund Meachen’s funeral, created an anti-bullying anthology in her memory, and offered to help her daughter edit her mother’s final book, free of charge. On Monday—over two years later—Meachen’s account posted something new in The Ward. This time, it was Susan saying she’s actually been alive this whole time.

On a happier note than redundancies and possible fraud, romance academic Dr. Amy Burge was quoted on the BBC website recommending romance-themed Christmas movies/books. She ended with a quick summary of what romance scholarship's about:  "While many read [...] romance for comfort and entertainment, readers can also think more critically about the genre, questioning the way these books represent the dreams, desires, and values of a particular society."
https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/zbrmp9q

This is evident in Jayashree Kamblé's Creating Identity: The Popular Romance Heroine's Journey to Selfhood and Self-Presentation forthcoming (due in the summer) new book, which is now available for pre-order. You can read an excerpt here. I've collected some of the key quotes from that excerpt, describing the contents, here.

And now on to a list of recent publications:

Long, Veronica Lee (2022). “Individuation and the Romance Novel.” PhD thesis, Pacifica Graduate Institute.

Pupipat, A., Rungkaew, T., & Meeparp, L. (2022). "Judging a Book by its Back Cover: Spoken/Informal Register as Found in Happily-Ever-After Women’s Novel Blurbs." Journal of Studies in the English Language, 17(2), 1–31.

Sheehan, Sarah E. (2022) "The “Popular Romance Canon”: An Academic Librarian’s Response." Journal of Popular Romance Studies 11. [I would like to note that there are some academic libraries with significant romance collections, as listed at the Romance Wiki (unfortunately I've been unable to log in to it and update it with details about the acquisition made by Indiana University's Lilly Library) and I've also added some to the sidebar here at Teach Me Tonight.]