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.


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.]

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