Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Out Now! Pursuing Happiness: Reading American Romance as Political Fiction

My new book is out at last! Here's the blurb:
The dominance of popular romance in the United States fiction market suggests that its trends and themes may reflect the politics of a significant proportion of the population. Pursuing Happiness explores some of the choices, beliefs and assumptions which shape the politics of American romance novels. In particular, it focuses on what romances reveal about American attitudes towards work, the West, race, gender, community cohesion, ancestral “roots” and a historical connection (or lack of it) to the land. The novels discussed include works by Suzanne Brockmann, Beverly Jenkins, Karin Kallmaker, Pamela Morsi, Nora Roberts, Sharon Shinn, Linnea Sinclair and LaVyrle Spencer.

"Pursuing Happiness explores the ways that popular American romance novels engage such matters as US gender roles, attitudes toward disability, the myth of the frontier, individualism and community, and racial violence and discrimination. A thoughtful study with a refreshingly topical focus.” — Prof. William Gleason, Princeton University, co-editor of Romance Fiction and American Culture: Love as the Practice of Freedom?

Pursuing Happiness is an insightful and entertaining look at the inherent, often invisible, politics that underlie America’s most popular genre of fiction.”— Isobel Carr, romance writer.

I've got more detailed information about each of the chapters here.

At the moment it's available in Kindle format from from Amazon  .ca, .com, .de, .es, .fr, .it, .uk, in paperback from Lulu and in pdf (and I think epub) from my publisher, Humanities Ebooks.

The paperback should become available from other booksellers in about six weeks or so.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Essays on Outlander (Forthcoming) and a Thesis on Thai Romance

Due out at the end of July this year is Adoring Outlander: Essays on Fandom, Genre and the Female Audience, edited by Valerie Estelle Frankel and published by McFarland and Co. According to details provided by the editor, it will include:
Part II: The Romance Question: Is it or Isn't it?

" 'Linked ... through the body of one man': Black Jack Randall as a Non-traditional Romance Villain", Michelle L. Jones, University of Regina

"The Good, The Bad and Lord John Grey: Observations on Desire, Sex, Violence, Lust and Love", Sandi Solis

"Travelling Through Time and Genre: Are the Outlander Books Romance Novels?", Jodi McAlister, MacQuarie University

"Gabaldon and the Practice of Gay Male Homoerotic Reading", Anthony Guy Patricia, Concord University
Khuankaew, Sasinee, 2015. 
"Femininity and masculinity in three selected twentieth-century Thai romance fictions." Ph.D thesis, Cardiff University.
The main purpose of this study is to examine a popular Thai genre of the novel, romance fiction, with a focus on the modes of subjectivity and discourses of femininity and masculinity to be found in Thai romance novels between the 1940s and 1990s. The thesis also seeks to locate the various socio-cultural contexts of Thai society, which influence the constitution of Thai gender relations and the transformation of gender norms. Additionally, it attempts to address the issue of the usefulness of Western theories of gender and romance, which are widely regarded in Thailand as tools of Westernization and new forms of colonialism. This study suggests that Thai gender relations are complicated, since there are several disparate aspects that influence the constitution of male and female subjectivity. Western influence is one of these aspects that help define femininity and masculinity, while domestic beliefs also play a salient role as palimpsests that are not easily erased. Thus, the representation of various modes of gendered subjectivity in romance fiction concurrently indicates both changes in and the reproduction of discourses that define an „essence‟ of gender identity that accords with traditional Thai cultural beliefs including the deep-rooted idea that the primary purpose of writing is didactic.  (More details here)
and not on the Wiki, since it's not a dissertation/thesis and isn't focused on romance:
Hu, Huizi, 2015.
"Fall 2015 Award Winner: The Power of Novels." The Diana McDonald Writer's Challenge. Parkland College.

"To be honest, I used to think the period when I read so many romance novels was worthless. However, while I am writing this essay and taking an entirely new look at how novels influenced me, I have realized that even these popular novels, which are often underestimated, actually improved my critical thinking ability and my rhetorical ability."

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Good News! More Romance Studies at DePaul

I can't find any more details yet on DePaul's website but Julie E. Moody-Freeman is:
an Associate Professor in African and Black Diaspora Studies.  She received her Ph.D. in Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Her teaching and research interests include studies in Black Feminist Theory, the Rhetoric of Colonialism and Post-Colonialism, African American popular romance fiction, and Black Speculative fiction.

Moody-Freeman’s publications include co-edited books The Black Imagination, Science Fiction, and the Speculative (Routledge, 2011) and The Black Imagination: Science Fiction, Futurism, and the Speculative (Peter Lang, 2011) as well as a co-edited special issue of African and Black Diaspora Studies: an international journal (Routledge, July 2015) on “Remapping the Black Atlantic: Diaspora, (Re) Writings of Race and Space.”

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Manly Look at Romance from Behind

Jonathan A. Allan's starting 2016 with two publications in the space of about two months. An article, titled "The Purity of His Maleness: Masculinity in Popular Romance Novels" appeared (online first) in the Journal of Men's Studies on 21 January and
seeks to open a discussion between critical studies of men and masculinities and popular romance studies. The phrase “purity of his maleness” is taken from Janice Radway’s groundbreaking study of the popular romance novel, and from this vantage, the article considers how critical studies of men and masculinities might think about, respond to, and engage popular romance novels and scholarship. 
Canadian cover
His new book, Reading From Behind: A Cultural Analysis of the Anus
has been named one of “Sixteen for ’16” to watch for this spring by a prominent Canadian literary critic.
Allan’s book, “Reading from Behind: A Cultural History of the Anus,” is a study of the anus, the ass, the rear in literary and cultural theory. Taking the anus beyond the butt of jokes, Allan examines why people squirm when it is mentioned, since we all have one and use it every day.
“It was 2014 that was called ‘the year of the booty,’ and 2015 was called ‘a banner year for the male butt,’ but it is both desirable and yet shameful, pejorative,” said Allan, the Canada Research Chair in Queer Theory and an Assistant Professor in Gender and Women’s Studies as well as English and Creative Writing at BU. “We all have one, and it seemed an interesting topic to study.” (press release)
Jonathan tells me there's a "chapter in the book on male/male romance". It'll become available in March.
UK cover

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Call for Papers: Academics at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference (August 2016)

Ain’t Love Grand

Romance Writers’ of Australia & Flinders University

Love and Romance Conference

Stamford Grand Hotel, Adelaide, South Australia

August 18-21, 2016

Flinders University is partnering with the Romance Writers of Australia to deliver two peer-reviewed academic streams at the Romance Writers of Australia national conference in August 2016. One stream will be focussed on Historical Representations of Love; the second will be for Popular Romance Studies. The Love Research Cluster for the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions and the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance Studies are partners for these streams and we aim to bring together a diverse and dynamic community of researchers on love and romance.

Love is central in the personal, social, and political construction of how we understand, organise, categorise, and measure our relationships. For historians, cultural theorists, sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, and literary scholars it is not possible to understand our areas without some understanding of the role of love. For Romance writers, it is the centre of their narratives. This is an increasingly reciprocal relationship. Writers use the work of scholars to give their work immediacy and accuracy, while scholars use popular depictions to explain cultural difference or illustrate cultural paradigms both in their work and their teaching. This conference aims to bring together those who create representations of love, sex, and romance with those who study them through its transdisciplinary academic stream, ‘Historical Representations of Love’ and its popular romance specific stream ‘Popular Romance Studies’.

Keynote Speakers at the conference will be:
  • Professor Catherine Roach (New College, University of Alabama)
  • Professor Stephanie Trigg (University of Melbourne)
  • Dr Danijela Kambaskovic (University of Western Australia)
Deadline for Submission of Papers is Monday 29 February, 2016. Send to:

More details can be found here and for further information please contact: Dr Amy Matthews ( and Dr Erin Sebo (

Saturday, January 09, 2016

New to the Wiki: Latvia and Bertlatsky

In addition to the bibliography of academic articles and books, the Romance Wiki also has two pages for reporting of romance in the media (A-I; J-Z). I thought I'd mention a new item I added to that today, because it quotes Eric:
Why is romance such an easy target for politicians? Eric Selinger, a professor of English at DePaul University, and the academic adviser to the Popular Romance Project, pointed out that conservative politicians have been increasingly sceptical of funding for the humanities as a whole. Within the humanities, popular culture is seen as especially unimportant – and then: “Within popular culture, popular romance is a particularly tempting target because it has to do with women, it has to do with sex. It’s long been seen as a fairly trivial cultural enterprise.” [...]

In fact, the legislative antipathy to romance is an acknowledgement of its high cultural profile – and is therefore a kind of backhanded validation of the genre. Eric Selinger pointed out that politicians used romance as an example of government waste because any discussion of romance novels is sexy and arresting; it generates headlines. [...]

If romance matters enough to be an object of hatred and political manipulation, therefore, it seems like it should matter enough to be an object of study as well.
Berlatsky, Noah, 2016.
'Why books like Fifty Shades of Grey are worthy of study: Lawmakers are calling for Missouri academic Melissa Click to be fired – in part because she conducts research on romance novels, and the hypocrisy is revealing,' The Guardian, Friday 8 January 2016.[29]
Dreimane, Jana, 2015. 
"Authors, Publishers and Readers of Popular Literature in Latvia in the Late 1980s and Early 1990s." Interlitteraria 20.2: 56–70. Abstract Full text

Monday, December 28, 2015

Update on "Women and Erotic Fiction" ed. Kristen Phillips

Kristen Phillips recently posted me a copy of Women and Erotic Fiction: Critical Essays on Genres, Markets and Readers, an essay collection she edited. This meant that I was able to find out more about the contents than when I last posted about the book.

I've now written up a series of posts at my blog about each of the essays in the collection. The first of them is here and it contains links to all of the others.

Monday, December 14, 2015

CFP: PopCAANZ (Sydney, Australia) 2016 Conference

PopCAANZ 2016 Conference

Call for papers
PopCAANZ 7th Annual International Conference
29 June-1 July 2016
Sydney University Village, Sydney, Australia
Deadline for proposals: 1 March 2016

The full CFP can be found here. It invites
academics, professionals, cultural practitioners and those with a scholarly interest in popular culture to send a 150 word abstract and 100 word bio to the area chairs
In the case of popular romance that's:
Jodi McAlister:
Conference information is here.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

New to the Wiki: Women's Uses of Romance Novels (including m/m)

Foster, Guy Mark, 2015. 
'What To Do If Your Inner Tomboy Is a Homo: Straight Women, Bisexuality, and Pleasure in M/M Gay Romance Fictions', Journal of Bisexuality, Published online first. Abstract:
"Criticism [...] often argues that such narratives merely substitute two male bodies for a male/female pair without substantively altering the emotional and sexual dynamics of the relationship. Hence, the male lovers in such narratives are simply acting out a heterosexual fantasy of gay male intimacy. To challenge this view, this essay turns to revisions to Freudian understandings of bisexuality. In so doing, it attempts to relocate this pleasure in the repudiated male identities and homosexual object cathexes that all women are urged to give up in the pre-Oedipal phase as a condition of assuming (hetero)normative gender and sexual subjectivities."
Moody, Stephanie, 2016. 
“Building Social Worlds: Examining Women’s Uses of Romance Novels.” Literacy in Practice: Writing in Private, Public and Working Lives. Eds. Patrick Thomas and Pamela Takayoshi. New York: Routledge. 32-45.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

New to the Wiki: Romance Fiction v. Real Life

Iwai, Gaku, 2015. 
"Wartime Ideology in 'The Thimble': A Comparative Study of Popular Wartime Romance and the Anti-romance of D. H. Lawrence." Études Lawrenciennes 46.
Kempf, Rachel Erin, 2015. 
"Dirty Words: The Writing Process of 'Smutshop'." The University of Texas at Austin, Master of Fine Arts. ["I worked at Siren-BookStop, Inc. for three years, cleaning up manuscripts and penning gay werewolf erotica [...] It was the best and worst job I’ve ever had — the best because I got paid to write and spend my workday making dirty jokes, and the worst because real sex isn’t porn sex, and real women aren’t romance heroines, and love and relationships are messy and complicated and when you spend all day boxing it into the confines of a highly formulaic genre, you’re bound to start getting some messed-up ideas about how your love life ought to be"]
Meyer, Michaela D. E., 2015. 
"Living the Romance through Castle: Exploring Autoethnography, Popular Culture and Romantic Television Narratives". The Popular Culture Studies Journal 3.1&2: 245-269. [This includes a discussion of romance fiction, not just television romantic narratives]
Moody, Stephanie, 2016. 
"Identification, Affect, and Escape: Theorizing Popular Romance Reading." Pedagogy 16.1: 105-123. Abstract
Slušná, Zuzana, 2015. 
"Postfeminism, Post-romantic and New Patterns of Feminity [sic] in Popular Culture." European Journal of Science and Theology 11.6: 229-238.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Romance Research in the Canary Islands and Australia

In the Canary Islands, Dr. María-Isabel González-Cruz (Associate Professor, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain) is leading a project on:
Discourse, Gender and Identity in a Corpus of Popular Romance Fiction Novels on the Canaries and Other Atlantic Islands [Discursos, género e identidad en un corpus de novela rosa inglesa ambientada en Canarias y otras islas atlánticas] (Reference FFI2014-53962-P)

The novels in this corpus are all set, wholly or partially, in the Atlantic islands (mostly the Canaries) and are written by English Harlequin/ Mills & Boon female authors. The project begins with a corpus of 20 novels set in the Canaries, while the corpus on Madeira and other islands has just begun to be built, including only 2 novels at the moment. The texts cover a time span of almost five decades, from 1958 to 2004, which allows for an analysis of the evolution of their discourse.

The protagonists are usually a native islander hero, or an Englishman with local ancestors, who falls in Jove with an English heroine who either visits or settles temporarily on one of the islands, which are typically described as a paradise with very different sociocultural traditions. Both the narrator and the characters are aware of the sociocultural and linguistic differences and often make reference to them. This provides an interesting framework and material to carry out a variety of analyses related to a number of challenging issues, including identity and otherness, paradise discourse, and intercultural and even linguistic contact, since the texts are written in English but interspersed with Spanish and Canarian (also Portuguese) terms and expressions. These words and phrases perform different communicative functions and reach a wide international readership who become familiar with them. This may contribute, to some extent, to their diffusion and eventual adoption by readers of English or other speech communities, as González-Cruz (2011b) has argued. [...]

In short, our purposes in this Research Projects are as follows:
  1. to carry out an interdisciplinary study of the texts we have compiled so far
  2. to keep searching for more books in order to enlarge both corpora, the main Canarian corpus and the one referring to other Atlantic islands,
  3. to make a comparative analysis of the novels set in this area.
I don't know which novels are included in the 20-book corpus. Can you think of any books you think should be included? I can pass on any suggestions.

Dr Lisa Fletcher recently announced on the RomanceScholar listserv that she's
part of a research team just awarded a 3-year (2016-2018) Australia Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project grant of A$316,000 to study 21st-century Australian popular fiction, including romance. This interdisciplinary project brings together researchers from the University of Queensland (Kim Wilkins, David Carter), the University of Melbourne (Beth Driscoll), and the University of Tasmania (me).

Our project summary: This project intends to conduct a systematic examination of 21st-century Australian popular fiction, the most significant growth area in Australian trade publishing since the turn of the century. Its three areas of investigation are the publishing of Australian popular fiction; the interrelationships between Australian popular fiction and Australian genre communities; and the textual distinctiveness of Australian popular novels in relation to genre. Research is designed to centre on 30 novels across three genres, building a comprehensive picture of the practices and processes of Australian popular fiction through detailed examination of trade data, close reading of texts, and interviews with industry figures.

The maps of Australia and the Canary Islands came from Wikimedia Commons and are either in the public domain or made available under a Creative Commons licence.

Friday, October 23, 2015

New to the Wiki: The "Coming Soon" Edition

Amy Burge's Representing Difference in the Medieval and Modern Orientalist Romance is due for publication in March 2016 by Palgrave Macmillan. It
proffers innovative case studies on representations of cross-religious and cross-cultural romantic relationships in a selection of late medieval and twenty-first century Orientalist popular romances. Comparing the tropes, characterization and settings of these literary phenomena, and focusing on gender, religion, and ethnicity, the study exposes the historical roots of current romance representations of the east, advancing research in Orientalism, (neo)medievalism and medieval cultural studies. Fundamentally, Representing Difference invites a closer look at medieval and modern popular attitudes towards the east, as represented in romance, and the kinds of solutions proposed for its apparent problems.
Women & Erotic Fiction: Critical Essays on Genres, Markets & Readers was published earlier this year for Kindle but isn't due for publication as a paperback until November. Unfortunately I haven't seen a copy and the snippets of information available online aren't helping me identify which of the essays deal with romance fiction. Even the titles aren't necessarily that helpful because some people use "romance" in a broader sense than the RWA or Pamela Regis do (and those are the definitions guiding me in my selection of items for the bibliography). I've added the following to the Romance Wiki bibliography:

Morrissey, Katherine, 2015. 
“Steamy, Spicy, Sensual: Tracing the Cycles of Erotic Romance.” Women & Erotic Fiction: Critical Essays on Genres, Markets & Readers. Ed. Kristen Phillips. Jefferson: McFarland, 2015. 42-58.
Veldman-Genz, Carole, 2015. 
"Selling Gay Sex to Women: The Romance of M/M and M/M/F Romantica." Women & Erotic Fiction: Critical Essays on Genres, Markets & Readers. Ed. Kristen Phillips. Jefferson: McFarland, 2015. 133-149.

I'd be grateful if anyone could let me know which of the other essays in the volume should also be included:

  • Introduction: Shattering Releases (Kristen Phillips)
  • From Black Lace to Shades of Grey: The Interpellation of the "Female Subject" into Erotic Discourse (Simon Hardy)

  • Refiguring Penetration in Women’s Erotic Fiction (Amalia Ziv)

  • Erotic Pleasure and Postsocialist Female Sexuality: Contemporary Female "Body Writing" in China (Eva Chen)

  • Good Vibrations: Shaken Subjects and the Disintegrative Romance Heroine (Naomi Booth)

  • On Not Reading Fifty Shades: Feminism and the Fantasy of Romantic Immunity (Tanya Serisier)
  • Permissible Transgressions: Feminized ­Same-Sex Practice as ­Middle-Class Fantasy (Jude Elund)

  • The Politics of Slash on the High Seas: Colonial Romance and Revolutionary Solidarity in Pirates Fan Fiction (Anne Kustritz)

  • Male Homoerotic Fiction and Women’s Sexual Subjectivities: Yaoi and BL Fans in Indonesia and the Philippines (Tricia Abigail Santos Fermin)

  • Selling Authentic Sex: Working Through Identity in Belle de Jour’s The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl (Victoria Ong)

  • Sexing Education: Erotica in the Urban Classroom (Alyssa D. Niccolini)