Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Teaching Romance at Ithaca College

Ithaca College's Jennifer Wofford will be teaching a seminar on romance this semester (fall 2015):

Reading Popular Romance
Jennifer Wofford
Theme: Inquiry, Imagination, and Innovation; Perspective: Social Sciences

CRN 24024 ICSM 10824-01, TR 04:00 PM-5:15 PM, M 12:00 PM-12:50 PM
U.S. Representative Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) introduced a bill in 2014 proposing to prohibit the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) from funding any project relating to the research of love or romance (H.R.5155). Yet, popular romance is the highest selling book genre in the world today, representing the largest share of sales revenue in the industry. Moreover, 84% of romance readership are women. Popular romance is a women’s industry, perhaps the largest in the US. Yet a US legislator made a point of crafting a law against it. Why? This courses uses popular romance as both a cultural subject and as a vehicle of inquiry into readers and reading. It asks questions like: What is romance? Who are our heroines? What is a reader? Why are women reading and writing these stories? How have archetypes and plot lines changed since the 1960s, when mass market romance novels emerged, and what does that say about fans of the genre? What’s the relationship between literature and commerce? Should popular romance be studied? If so, for what purpose?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Last Call: PCA Romance Proposals (Oct. 1 Deadline)

--Eric Selinger

In my young and dapper days (see above) I didn't worry much about conference deadlines, either from the proposal side--sure, sure, I'll get it done; don't bother me while I'm thinking--or from the side of the conference organizer. Older and wiser, I worry...but you can help!

Next Thursday, October 1, is the deadline for you to propose a talk for the PCA National Conference in Seattle, March 22-26.  The Romance Area is looking for papers on love, romance, and the popular culture of romantic love: any medium, any period, anywhere in the world.  

We have several special events lined up this year, including a panel on diversity in historical romance featuring authors Rose Lerner, Koko Brown, and Lori Witt (more may join them!) and a screening of the full, completed version of Love Between the Covers, the documentary film by Laurie Kahn. 

Papers already accepted cover a wide range of topics and media:  popular romance novels, queer readings of classic texts, masculinities and heroes, rape discourse and the discourse of desire, paranormal romance and urban fantasy, romance pedagogy, and more.

Please check out the Romance Area Call for Papers for more details and topic ideas, and if you have any questions about whether a topic would be appropriate, just ask!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

New to the Wiki: Genre Labels Affect Translation; Romance and PTSD

Bianchi, Diana and Adele D'Arcangelo, 2015. 
'Translating History or Romance? Historical Romantic Fiction and Its Translation in a Globalised Market', Linguistics and Literature Studies 3.5: 248-253.
They look in particular at two translations into Italian of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. The first, "At a paratextual level [...] was clearly interpreted as a romance" while the second seemed to indicate that the novel was historical fiction. The differences were not only external:
In particular, the several cuts, omissions and general manipulation of the first translation indicate that translating a book as a ‘romance’ authorizes radical interventions of a kind that are more typical in the most formulaic type of romantic fiction such as the Harlequin romances [...]. The second translation, on the contrary, does not present substantial cuts and remains, on the whole, fairly close to the source text. (251)
Holden, Stacy E. and Charity Tabol, 2015. 
'In Sickness and In Health: Representations of PTSD in Post-9/11 Romance Novels', albeit 2.1.
The novelists writing these tales do not craft a character with whom a veteran would identify, and this is in part because of what Johnson notes are the “parameters of the genre,” which demand a Happily Ever After. But, as we argue in this article, it is also because the American public is unwilling to accept disabled veterans whose lives—and basic dispositions—have been ineluctably changed by the US decision to go to war. Ultimately, romance novels that focus on disabled veterans who find healing in love reveal a widely held fantasy about PTSD. Although offering a simulacrum of the sequelae of combat trauma, a closer examination of the text reveals some misinformation about combat-related PTSD. And so, contemporary romances expose a general reluctance in the US to accept wounded warriors with chronic difficulties.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Teaching Tainted Lit: Sneaking Romance Into the Classroom

Teaching Tainted Lit: Popular American Fiction in Today's Classroom is available for pre-order now (it'll be published on 15 November 2015). It contains:
Losano, Antonia, 2015. 
"Sneaking It In at the End: Teaching Popular Romance in the Liberal Arts Classroom," Teaching Tainted Lit: Popular American Fiction in Today's Classroom, ed. Janet G. Casey (Iowa City: U of Iowa P), pp. 77-88.

Losano details the difficulties she had teaching popular romances. On her first attempt she introduced Heyer's Frederica to a "senior seminar course on canonicity and literary aesthetics" (81) but
Unfortunately, Heyer's novel was received with only derision and contempt. [...] The kicker came [...] when one student confessed that he didn't actually think much of either [...] Pride and Prejudice or Frederica. Maybe if he'd read Pride and Prejudice in a different context, he argued, he wouldn't have noticed that it was just about romance and not much else. Much of the rest of the class nodded in agreement. (82)
That did set Losano's teaching of popular romance back for a while, but she kept trying and eventually found more productive ways to bring popular romance fiction into the classroom. There's an excerpt of her article here.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Help an Academic Out: "Till Death Us Do Part"

Daniel K Judd is
a professor looking for the history of the phrase: "Until death do us part." I'm also researching what the wording of the various denominations would have been in America from 1830 - 1850. Thank you for any help you may be able to provide.
Anyone got any ideas/information they could share with Daniel?

[Edited: Emma Barry mentioned on Twitter that it's in the Book of Common Prayer. A quick Google turns up this, from the 1789 U. S. Book of Common Prayer:
I M. take thee N. to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth. 
Also via Twitter, Ros Clarke's got us back to the 11th century and the Order for Consecration of Marriage: Sarum Use:

I N. take thee N. to my wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death us depart, if holy Church will it permit, and thereto I plight thee my troth.

Ros thinks " 'till death us depart' [...] was said in English not Latin, so no translation needed by Cranmer, though he put 'do part'. Don't know when that shift happened, though."]

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Something Old, Something New (Romance Teaching 2/2)

--Eric Selinger

Quick Recap: the "old" is me, the "new" is the set of texts I just finished teaching in a summer romance class.  I blogged about three of those in part 1--Maya Rodale's Dangerous Books for Girls, Laura Florand's The Chocolate Thief, and A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev--and now I'll post about the rest, in the order I taught them.

Book #4: Sherry Thomas, My Beautiful Enemy.  I had heard great things about this novel for months, but hadn't read it, so I put it on my summer syllabus.  It's a historical novel set partly in China and partly in England, and it moves around chronologically between the 1881 and the early 1890s; it's also, as Thomas has said, an homage to the wuxia martial arts fiction and film that the author grew up on, which I take to be an instance of "Romance" (in Northrop Frye's sense) from a non-Western tradition.
  • What Went Well:  I find this a beautiful, haunting novel: one of those romances I keep thinking about long after I've finished it.  We had a great discussion of the heroine, and of what Thomas does (and does not do) with her biracial heritage; we had a great time discussing the hero and contrasting him with those of our first two novels, using and then complicating the "alpha" and "beta" terminology that you find in romance reviews.  The tone and structure of the novel were sharp contrasts as well, so students began to glimpse the variety available within the genre. Wonderful discussion of the novel's allusions to other narratives and texts, especially to the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl, which comes up a few times, and to The Heart Sutra, an engraving of which turns out to be central to the plot.  (I'm a sucker for allusions.) One Chinese student offered some great observations about how the novel deals with its paired generic inheritance (wuxia and Western romance fiction); unfortunately, due to medical issues, she was only there for a portion of the discussion, and we didn't really finish it.
  • What Went Less Well:  I'd originally had students order both My Beautiful Enemy and its non-romance prequel, The Hidden Blade. When it became clear that students were falling behind in the reading, I dropped the prequel, but simply knowing there was one threw some students off, and they struggled to see My Beautiful Enemy as a stand-alone text. Others found the novel's structure, which loops around between two time-frames, difficult to follow when reading quickly for class.  None was prepared for our allusion discussion, but that didn't really surprise me.  It's not as though the Heart Sutra is an easy text to think through, no matter the context!
  • What I'd Do Differently Next Time:  I'd really like to teach the pair of novels, as originally planned, and I want to find some way to think through and set up the Buddhist side of the novel more effectively, the way I do with Christian / Biblical contexts for other novels.
5) Alex Beecroft, Blue-Eyed Stranger.  I've been teaching British novelist Alex Beecroft more or less continuously since 2009, when her first novel, the historical m/m romance False Colors, was published.  Blue-Eyed Stranger is one of her new trilogy of contemporary novels, also m/m romances, and like the other two, it deals a lot with issues of difference: in this case, racial difference (one of the heroes is of Sudanese descent; the other is white) and disability (one of the heroes is bipolar). One hero does historical re-enactments of Vikings, the other is a Morris dancer, so the novel offers not only some interesting meditations on history and diversity, but also the chance to learn something about Morris dancing and folk music, as the books before it in the syllabus offered us the chance to learn about wuxia and Bollywood film.
  • What Went Well:  Great discussion of the novel's problematic packaging, which does not offer any image of the black hero, Martin; great discussion of the novel's themes and politics, which students thought stood in sharp contrast with that packaging.  Several students in the class deal with depression or bipolar disorder, and they were fascinated by the text, although one was quite wary until she read that the author was fictionalizing her own experience; several students were fascinated by the differences between how this British novel dealt with race and homosexuality vs. what they'd have expected from an American interracial m/m romance.  Beecroft's blog posts about folk culture were helpful in giving context to the novel and in thinking about the ways the novel might be framing popular romance writing as similar to folk culture practices (rather than commercial / luxury culture practices, as in the Florand novel). We had fun watching YouTube clips of Morris dancing, too.
  • What Went Less Well:  Blue-Eyed Stranger works well both as a love story and as a novel of ideas, a book about historical romance as a genre (albeit refracted through discussions of historical re-enactment, Morris dancing, and folk music sessions).  I put it on the syllabus before Beverly Jenkins's historical novel Captured to set up and give us terms to talk about the Jenkins, but in retrospect, it might have worked better afterwards, since it ended up preempting some of the things students might have said about that book.  
  • What I'd Do Differently Next Time:  In the fall I'm going to teach the first book from Beecroft's new trilogy, Trowchester Blues, and in the winter I'll probably try the third one.  Nothing jumps out at me as a different approach to try for this one, other than perhaps to assemble a better set of audio-visual supplements (dancing and music and Vikings) to show my students.  It might also be interesting to teach all three books together at some point--I've thought about doing that with Victoria Dahl's Talk Me Down, Start Me Up, and Lead Me On, which work well together and would teach well together, too.
6) Beverly Jenkins, Captured.  In the ten years I've been teaching romance, almost every survey class I've done has featured a novel by Beverly Jenkins.  Usually it's been Something Like Love, which was the first novel I read by her, and which teaches beautifully, because a version of what the novel is doing with history (filling us in, revising our sense of the past) takes place within the text itself, as characters use stray bits of knowledge to make things happen in their fictional world.  I tried Captured when it first came out, but then went back to Somethig Like Love; this year I decided to try Captured again, because I was trying to play up the armchair travel settings of my course, and it's a pirate romance set in the Caribbean during the American revolution.
  • What Went Well:  a great discussion of the novel's cover and back-cover copy, which use genre tropes in ways that the novel itself often avoids or varies; good comparison / contrast work in terms of the hero, the heroine, the barriers, and other elements; a very interesting discussion of the romance novel (this particular one and the genre more generally) as alternative historiography. 
  • What Went Less Well:  the cover discussion was fascinating, but when it started again the second day, things began to drag; several extravagant moments in the novel's plot drew skepticism from students, and here (as elsewhere) I found myself wondering whether this novel wouldn't teach better if I had it paired with another pirate romance, so that the particular tropes of that subgenre were more visible as conventions which Jenkins then plays with.
  • What I'd Do Differently Next Time:  Captured is the third Jenkins novel I've taught, and for my students I'd have to say that it taught almost as well as Something Like Love, and better than Topaz.  There are several others I'd like to try--Indigo, which has been re-released as an e-book, and The Taming of Jessie Rose, which has also come back out now--and I'd also like to begin pairing Jenkins's African American historical romances with some of the new voices in that subgenre.  (I'm thinking here especially of Piper Huguley's Migrations of the Heart series, and of the Brightest Day anthology.)  Since the discussion of romance as historiography went so well, I'd like to try assigning my students Hsu-Ming Teo's essay on that topic, from the New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction anthology, even though it focuses on a novel from a different author and time-period, Bertrice Small's The Kadin.  
  • Note to Self:  Try teaching The Kadin sometime alongside Magnificent Century, the Turkish soap opera.  
7) Meljean Brook, Riveted.  Although my students split on many of our novels--some liking the book, some wary or resistant or simply disengaged--there was unanimous enthusiasm for our last novel, the steampunk romance Riveted.  Students loved the world-building, the characters, and the politics of the novel; they were both fascinated by it and emotionally caught up in it.  
  • What Went Well:  great discussion of gender in the novel, especially its construction of masculinity; interesting discussion of disability and sexual politics; the genre-hybridity of the book, which nods to the history and conventions of "scientific romance" (as science fiction used to be called) as well as to the popular romance novel.  
  • What Went Less Well:  nothing, really.  A win all around.
  • What I'd Do Differently Next Time:  I'm teaching this novel in the fall, actually, in a unit on romance and SF/Fantasy.  I'll be teaching it between Alexis Hall's Prosperity , a "queer steampunk western set in a city in the sky," and The Midnight Hunt, a lesbian werewolf romance by L. A. Raand (AKA Len Barot / Radclyffe).  My only concern is that one week might not be enough time to do the book justice, but we'll see how it goes!
That's the lot of them, folks!  Six novels and one work of criticism; of the new books in the group, I'd say two (My Beautiful Enemy and Riveted) are on my list of novels to teach again as soon as I get the chance, and others will likely come round again once I've had the opportunity to test drive some other recent romances, too.  My syllabus had grown a little stagnant since 2009-10, which worked for me as a teacher but not so well for me as a scholar, trying to keep up with the current state of the genre, and my students were beginning to wonder why I would talk about a book from six or seven years ago as a "new" book.  As I try new texts, I'll try to note them here.

Something Old, Something New (Romance Teaching 1/2)

--Eric Selinger

The "something old" is, well, me, evidently:  I'm currently marking my 20th anniversary as a professor of English at DePaul University in Chicago, my 10th anniversary as a teacher of courses on popular romance fiction, and my 5th anniversary as Executive Editor of the peer-reviewed, open-access Journal of Popular Romance Studies.  (As Laura posted a few days ago, issue 5.1 of JPRS has just been published; you can read the table of contents in her post and catch up on back issues here.)

The "something new" would be the syllabus for my now-completed summer course on popular romance fiction, which was almost entirely composed of books I was teaching for the first time.  My regular-term syllabus had grown a little stale, and I wanted to shake things up a bit; in fact, I'm teaching yet another round of new novels in the fall term, starting next week.  What I want to do today is briefly recap my thoughts about each of the books I just taught, so that others who have the chance to teach courses on popular romance--either a full term on the genre or just a unit, with one or two books--can see at least a bit of what I did and how it went.

My romance courses are offered through the DePaul English department, and take what I'd call a "literary studies" approach to the novels: a lot of close reading, some literary history, some exposure to the critical debates that surround the genre. For the past few years I've built my courses around a spine of topics provided by Laura Vivanco's For Love and Money: the Literary Art of the Harlequin Mills and Boon Romance.  We read one of her chapters (the Introduction, Modes, Mythoi, Metafiction, Metaphors, the Conclusion), and then a novel that reads well in light of the terms and topics discussed in the chapter.  In the remaining weeks of the quarter I generally assign a bit more secondary reading--some essays from JPRS; some chapters from Thomas J. Roberts's An Aesthetics of Junk Fiction--but the heart of the class is the Vivanco text, which teaches (in my experience) extraordinarily well, both to general-education undergraduates and to more sophisticated and demanding English majors, MA students, and so on.

This summer I tried a different secondary text, which we read all at once at the start of term, and then a bunch of novels that I'd only read once, so that I didn't really know in advance how I'd frame them.  Here's how it all played out:

1) Maya Rodale, Dangerous Books for Girls: the Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained. Unlike Vivanco's monograph, which is a work of literary scholarship, Rodale's book is a sort of apologia for romance fiction: a defense of the genre which draws on literary and cultural history, on some surveys she conducted, and on her own experiences as a romance reader and author.  It's written in short, lively chapters, and although they laughed at some memorable copyediting goofs--the sisters in Sense and Sensibility face a life of "gentile poverty"--students found the book quite readable.
  • What Went Well: students who had no idea there was any opprobrium attached to the genre got a useful introduction to that disdain and its deep history, which has roots in enduring fears about female authorship and reading; students acquired a useful set of terms and talking points to use when discussing cover art, dominant heroes, and certain types of sex scenes; students found it interesting to test Rodale's claims about the "dangerous" aspects of the genre in general--a genre she frames as written by women, about women, and for women--against the particulars of the novels we read, including our one m/m romance (a subgenre she does not discuss at any length).  
  • What Went Less Well: like Beyond Heaving Bosoms, the apologia by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan from some years ago, Dangerous Books for Girls worked best for students who knew something about the genre already, and who wanted their own fondness for it to be validated. Skeptical students--those with political concerns about the genre and those with aesthetic concerns--mostly remained skeptical as they read the book and in the discussions that followed; students who follow current blog and social media debates about diversity in the genre (sexual and racial / ethnic) thought that the book glossed over problematic issues; students were honestly puzzled, when we got to our m/m novel, as to why that subgenre had been discussed so little in our set-up material.  Starting with Rodale seemed to push the class toward discussions of why women read these books rather than the more literary approaches I prefer; in terms of those why women read discussions, I was personally disappointed with the negative way that Rodale talks about Janice Radway's Reading the Romance, since many of the ideas in Dangerous Books for Girls--ideas from Rodale and from the readers / bloggers / authors she quotes--ultimately have their roots in Radway's analysis.  
  • What I'd Do Differently Next Time:  Because I'm mostly interested in literary approaches to the genre, I find the Vivanco a more amenable frame text for my class.  If I were to teach Rodale again, I'd probably want to teach it as a primary text in its own right, late in a quarter, as part of the romance apologia genre.  I might put it alongside Beyond Heaving Bosoms and Love Between the Covers, the documentary film from the Popular Romance Project, or beside Catherine Roach's forthcoming Happily Ever After: the Romance Study in Popular Culture, which is more critical but related in its "what's the appeal" approach.  In any case, I'd want students to have a few novels under their belts first, so that they'd be reading Rodale's book in light of the fiction, rather than reading the fiction in light of the Rodale.  
2) Laura Florand, The Chocolate Thief.  Laura Florand is one of the professor / authors who taught a course on popular romance fiction at Duke University last spring; The Chocolate Thief is the first of her novels set in and around the world of high-end chocolatiers in Paris.
  • What Went Well:  The novel hinges on a romance between Sylvain, the French hero who makes artisanal luxury chocolates, and Cade, the American billionaire heroine who stands to inherit Corey Chocolates, low-end mass market confections sold at Walmart and drugstores (think Hershey bars). The Parisian setting and the chocolate focus were perfect ways to introduce and talk about issues of conventionality in romance culture (including romance fiction); the contrast between his chocolates and hers proved a lovely way to talk about the distinctions between literary and mass-market fiction, and the ways in which this particular romance novel negotiated between their respective appeals.
  • What Went Less Well:  Not much!  This book taught extremely well.  Some students found the hero and / or the heroine a bit too genre-conventional for their tastes, but that can happen with any romance novel; some were troubled by the contrast between the heroine's topflight professional capacity and her enjoyment of being sexually dominated (in a pretty mild way) by the hero, but this actually fit very nicely with Rodale's chapters on Fifty Shades of Grey and with our class discussion of the romance marketplace, in which tropes that prove popular in one book have a way of showing up in others, deliberately or not. 
  • What I'd Do Differently Next Time:  As I taught this novel, I thought of all sorts of connections between what it does with consumer culture and romance and what Eva Illouz talks about in Consuming the Romantic Utopia: Love and the Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism.  I tossed a sheaf of quotes from Illouz at my students, but didn't require them or assign long passages from that book.  Next time I'd want to do more with this.  The novel also would "play well" (as they say) with Vivanco's chapters on Modes (there's a lot of modal counterpoint to talk about) and possibly Metafiction (via the chocolate as romance connection).
3) Sonali Dev, A Bollywood Affair.  This was the second time I've taught A Bollywood Affair, Dev's debut novel. I've been thinking a lot about my need to teach a more diverse array of romance novels, thanks in part to the #weneeddiverseromance hashtag campaign, and Dev's book brought some very interesting new material to my syllabus--a setting split between the US and India; a pervasive intertext of Indian popular film; Hindu characters rather than Christian ones, etc. I found it a charming book, and one which would give me the chance to talk about two sets of genre tropes: some from popular romance, and some from Bollywood film. Since I started watching those movies because of an Indian American student in one of my romance classes--"If you like these novels, you'l love these movies," she said--this seemed like a great way to close that circle.

  • What Went Well:  Great discussion of the trade-paperback marketing of the novel, which contrasted nicely to what Rodale says about romance covers; great discussion of how the heroine, Mili, turns oppressive givens of her life to her advantage, working within those constraints (which we thought about in terms of genre constraints as well); great discussion of how an early reference to the Hindu Trimurti (Creator, Keeper--or "Preserver," as I learned it in the '70s--and Destroyer) informs our sense of the novel's hero; great close reading of the novel's epilogue as a recapitulation of the opening, which let us talk about repetition and variation as a structural principle in romance.  The novel's thematic emphasis on "freedom" made for a fine discussion of ideas from Pam Regis (whose Natural History) makes claims about "pragmatic freedom" and the romance novel in general.
  • What Went Less Well:  I had students read Jayashree Kamble's early piece on romance readers in India--the one published in the Sally Goade anthology Empowerment Vs. Oppression and included as the final chapter of her dissertation, years ago.  Primed by this piece, which talks about arranged marriages, students sometimes failed to see that Dev's novel does not talk about arranged marriages, but about child marriage, which is a very different thing.  Some students did not like how the novel plays up the physical size of its hero and the diminutive body of the heroine, but this is a familiar trope in popular romance fiction (cf. Lord of Scoundrels) and made for a useful discussion.
  • What I'd Do Diffferently Next Time:  As it happens, I'm teaching this novel again in the fall term, where I'm going to put it alongside Suleikha Snyder's Bollywood and the Beast and Alexis Hall's Glitterland to think more about romance fiction and romantic film.  At some point in the future I'd like to show students--or have students watch--one or two whole Bollywood films to give them that context, rather than just showing them trailers and excerpts. Someday!
I see that this post is getting awfully long, so I'm going to split my account of the class into a pair of posts.  See you soon in post #2!

Saturday, September 05, 2015

New to the Wiki: "Vocabulary Decay", Medievalism and Julie Garwood, Feminism

This time I thought I'd also include the items I didn't add to the bibliography so you can see the kinds of things I don't include. In the cases below, I omitted some interesting items because they either didn't deal with romance fiction at length or because they weren't secondary academic works.

First, though, are the items I did include:
Arvanitaki, Eirini, 2015. 
"Gender in Recent Romance Novels: A Third Wave Feminist Mills and Boon Love Affair?", in Re/Presenting Gender and Love, ed. Dikmen Yakalı Çamoğlu (Interdisciplinary Net). Index of the book
Diamond, Geneva, 2015. 
"Medievalism and the Courtship Plot in Julie Garwood's Popular Romance Novels", in The Middle Ages in Popular Culture: Medievalism and Genre, ed. Helen Young (Amhurst, NY: Cambria). Excerpt
Elliott, Jack, 2014. 
'Vocabulary Decay in Category Romance'. Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, Online, December 2014. [Abstract]

Writers of a best-selling category romance imprint share a common tendency to decrease their deployment of unique words over the span of their novels—a phenomenon of ‘vocabulary decay’. This tendency cannot be found in the novels of Jane Austen, suggesting this drop is not intrinsic to the romance genre itself, and is unlikely to have any true narrative purpose. A study of Charles Dickens shows that vocabulary decay extends beyond the romance genre. Closer examination reveals vocabulary decay is a result of progressive amounts of linguistic chunking—due to author fatigue or a desire to produce a more readable narrative. 
Elliott, Jack, 2015. 
'Whole Genre Sequencing', Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, Online, August 2015. [Abstract]

[Taking as its corpus] all electronically available Harlequin Presents novels—some 1,400 from 1999 to 2013—this article demonstrates that the genre’s fundamental architecture is a choir of authorial voices, that its evolution is dominated by sudden shifts due to financial pressures on the publisher, and that the order in which elements appear—the plot—is largely fixed.
[Edited to add: I've written at a bit more length about Jack Elliott's articles over at my personal blog.]

In the romance scholarship section we also have (not so comprehensive) chick lit and rom-com bibliographies. New to the chick-lit list is:
Ferris, Suzanne. 
"Working Girls: The Precariat of Chick Lit", in Cupcakes, Pinterest and Ladyporn: Feminized Popular Culture in the Early Twenty-First Century, ed. Elana Levine (University of Illinois, 2015): 177-???.
I also came across a short piece of fiction which tells the tale of a romance writer's rise and fall. Since it's fiction I haven't added it to any of the bibliographies, but it may be of interest/irritation to some of you:

Stamm, Kim (1987) "Confessions of a Romance Novelist," Manuscripts: Vol. 56: Iss. 2, Article 12.

I've also omitted Craig Williams's "Roman Homosexuality in Historical Fiction, from Robert Graves to Steven Saylor", in Ancient Rome and the Construction of Modern Homosexual Identities, ed. Jennifer Ingleheart (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2015): 176-???. That's because it doesn't have a lot to say about romance fiction (at least, not as far as I could tell from the excerpt), but there is a little, starting on page 190 and (from page 192) focusing on Fae Sutherland and Marguerite Labbe's The Gladiator's Master (2011).

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Academic / Community Screenings of Love Between the Covers

--Eric Selinger

For several years now I've served as a scholarly advisor for the Popular Romance Project, including the documentary film part of the PRP, Love Between the Covers.  The film is now in circulation at festivals in the US and internationally, and I must say, I'm very pleased with how it came out.  It's a really interesting film, with solid material on the genre, its authors, the reading community, and the publishing industry (including the digital revolution currently underway. Featured characters include Radclyffe (Len Barot), Beverly Jenkins, Eloisa James, new author Joanne Lockyer, and the collaborative team of Susan Donovan and Celeste Bradley.  

I’ve just heard from filmmaker Laurie Kahn that scholars, academic departments, and student groups can now host public screenings of Love Between the Covers at their colleges and universities.  If you are interested, go to where there's a form you can fill in (Laurie's office will then get in touch).  The screening team for Love Between the Covers (Laurie, Julia Hines and Riley Davis) will work with you, providing you with 
  • help and answers to your questions
  • posters, flyers, and postcards to promote your screening
  • great images from the film and film production, 
  • easy-to-use templates for a press release, for email messages, facebook messages, tweets, etc.
  • a DVD or Blu-Ray of the film for your screening
  • and help organizing a Q&A in person or on Skype with Laurie, local romance authors, or -- possibly -- one of the main characters in the film (if they live near by).  Obviously the romance scholars hosting the screening will also be part of the Q&A.  And those who've seen the film take shape can talk about it.
  • Finally, and most importantly, the screening team will help connect you up with other organizations in your area that are also interested in hosting a screening.
The cost of renting the film for a public screening is $400 USD, but all academic institutions and RWA chapters get a 25% discount, bringing the price to $300 USD.  If you team up with another organization (a book club, a local chapter of the Romance Writers of America, etc) you can split the cost, and promote the screening together.  

Collaborative screenings will draw a particularly interesting audience, with a mix of scholars, students, book lovers, romance authors, and romance readers!  

At the Library of Congress conference "What is Love? Romance Fiction in the Digital Age," which began with a sneak preview of Love Between the Covers, there was a mixed audience of scholars, people from the romance community, and the general public. The discussion was extremely lively and interesting -- and substantially different from the discussions one hears at conferences for romance authors/fans or conferences for romance scholars.  It was also a lot of fun!

There are many Romance Writers of America local chapters and book groups that are eager to team up with universities.  If you let Laurie and her team know that you are interested, they will help pair you up.

The sooner you get in touch the better, since Laurie is planning a Love Between the Covers screenathon, with 50-100 screenings across North America in the fall and early winter.  Already, screenings are being planned:

·  at a large military base in Hawaii
·  at a beautiful new public library in Halifax
·  at a romance readers’ conference in Denver
·  at a Landmark theater in Cambridge, MA
·  at literature festivals in Alabama and Mantua, Italy
·  at an independent booksellers trade show in N. Carolina.

If you have any questions, get in touch with me or with the Love Between the Covers screening team.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

New Issue of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies

"The Journal of Popular Romance Studies started publishing almost exactly five years ago: August 4, 2010" (Selinger) and Issue 5.1 is now available, for free, online.

Special Issue: Romancing the Library (Editor’s Introduction)
by Crystal Goldman

A Matter of Meta: Category Romance Fiction and the Interplay of Paratext and Library Metadata - by Vassiliki Veros
Love in the Digital Library: A Search for Racial Heterogeneity in E-Books - by Renee Bennett-Kapusniak and Adriana McCleer
Creating a Popular Romance Collection in an Academic Library - by Sarah E. Sheehan and Jen Stevens
Editor’s Note: Issue 5.1
True Love’s Kiss and Happily Ever After: the religion of love in American film - by Jyoti Raghu
Chick Lit in Historical Settings by Frida Skybäck - by Helene Ehriander
Love in the Desert: Images of Arab-American Reconciliation in Contemporary Sheikh Romance Novels - by Stacy E. Holden
Stacy Holden’s “Love in the Desert”: An Author’s Response - by Megan Crane
14 Weeks of Love and Labour: Teaching Regency and Desert Romance to Undergraduate Students - by Karin Heiss
An Interview with Susan Elizabeth Phillips - by Eric Murphy Selinger
Review: Conjugations: Marriage and Form in New Bollywood Cinema, by Sangita Gopal; Censorship and Sexuality in Bombay Cinema, by Monika Mehta
Review: The Contradictions of Love: Towards a feminist-realist sociosexuality, by Lena Gunnarsson
Review: The Problem with Pleasure: Modernism and its Discontents, by Laura Frost
Review: Sex, or the Unbearable, by Lauren Berland and Lee Edelman; Overcoming Objectification: A Carnal Ethics, by Ann J. Cahill; Erotic Memoirs and Postfeminism: The Politics of Pleasure, by Joel Gwynne

Saturday, August 29, 2015

New to the Wiki: Interview with Mary Jo Putney, Lesbian Romance Comics, Male and Female Sentences

I've just made 3 new additions to the Romance Wiki Bibliography:

Faktorovich, Anna, 2015. 
Gender Bias in Mystery and Romance Novel Publishing: Mimicking Masculinity and Femininity. (Stone Mountain, GA: Anaphora Literary P.). [You can "look inside" via]
It is a linguistic, literary stylistic, and structurally formalist analysis of the male and female “sentences” in the genres that have the greatest gender divide: romances and mysteries. The analysis will search for the historical roots that solidified what many think of today as a “natural” division. Virginia Woolf called it the fabricated “feminine sentence,” and other linguists have also identified clear sex-preferential differences in Anglo-American, Swedish and French novels. Do female mystery writers adopt a masculine voice when they write mysteries? Are female-penned mysteries structurally or linguistically different from their male competitors’, and vice versa among male romance writers? The first part can be used as a textbook for gender stylistics, as it provides an in-depth review of prior research. The second part is an analysis of the results of a survey on readers’ perception of gender in passages from literature. The last part is a linguistic and structural analysis of actual statistical differences between the novels in the two genres, considering the impact of the author’s gender.
Faktorovich, Anna, 2015. 
"Interview with Mary Jo Putney, Best-Selling Romance Author." Pennsylvania Literary Journal 7.2
This is available in full for free online and in it Faktorovich comments that
In my research for a book on gender bias in romance and mystery publishing, I found that most female romance novelists were married, while most female mystery novelists were divorced or otherwise had many negative relationships in their past.
Putney remarks that
A good thing about genre romance is that the happy ending is guaranteed, so it’s a safe space to explore topics that can be painful such as domestic abuse and alcoholism. Such stories interest me, so that’s what I write.
Wood, Andrea, 2015. 
"Making the Invisible Visible: Lesbian Romance Comics for Women." Feminist Studies 41.2: 293-334. [Excerpt]

And there are also 2 new items which I've added to the "in the media" section of the bibliography:
Gracie, Anne, 2015. 'Opinion: Romance rethlink', Good Reading, Jul 2015: 26-28. Abstract only:
Frou-frou fables for people starved of real love, or empowering stories that bring hope and happiness? Romance novels are perhaps more loved and more derided than any other book genre. Anne Gracie, a bestselling romance writer herself, recounts how she went from sneering at romance to writing it.

Grimaldi, Christine, 2015. '“Happily Ever After” for African-American Romance Novelists', The Rumpus, August 18th, 2015.

It's a long article which gets more interesting (I think) once it gets past the first couple of paragraphs, about the Popular Romance Project's launch at the Library of Congress. For instance, Grimaldi notes that the
publishing industry [...] self-identifies as 89 percent white, 3 percent Asian, 3 percent Hispanic, and just 1 percent African-American, according to a 2014 Publisher’s Weekly survey. Case in point: At the conference, Jenkins shared a story about feedback she received on one of her manuscripts. “We all know what ‘[keeping it on the] down low’ means, right? Well, the copyeditor did not,” she said. Judging from the laughter in the room, the audience, and especially her fans, got it. “And she sent me back a little note that said, ‘This is not correct. You should say, ‘Keep it on the low shelf.’ And I said, ‘How about I don’t say that?’ So you know, you’ve got to have a sense of humor to do this.”
It's available in full, for free, online here.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Academics at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference 2016

With thanks to Dr Jodi McAlister who drew attention to this on Twitter.

According to the Romance Writers of Australia:
The 25th Annual Romance Writers of Australia Conference will be held in Adelaide 2016.

Ain’t Love Grand will be held from 19 – 21 August 2016 at the Stamford Grand Hotel located at vibrant Glenelg, only a few minutes from the city centre.

As an additional bonus, we have partnered with Flinders University of South Australia to deliver an academic stream.
On Twitter they mentioned that this "academic stream" "will include Professor Catherine Roach, Dr Danijela Kakavaskovic" (tweet) and Professor "James McGoldrick" (tweet).

Catherine Roach, whose “Getting a Good Man to Love: Popular Romance Fiction and the Problem of Patriarchy” was published in the Journal of Popular Romance Studies
also writes historical romance fiction under the pen name Catherine LaRoche; her first e-novel Master of Love was published by Simon & Schuster in 2012 and Knight of Love followed in 2014. [...]

Currently, she is writing about her experience of becoming a romance novelist in a general audience academic book on how the story of romance — “find your one true love” — is the most powerful narrative at work in popular culture. Entitled Happily Ever After, the book is forthcoming from Indiana University Press later in 2015. (Roach)
I couldn't find any details about a Dr Danijela Kakavaskovic but I wonder it there was a typo in the tweet and the name should be Dr Danijela Kambaskovic, who
is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at The University of Western Australia. She is a former a lecturer in Shakespeare and Renaissance Studies at UWA. She has published widely in the fields of genre history and history of ideas and is an award-winning poet. (History of Emotions)
I also had problems identifying Professor James McGoldrick. There is one who co-authors novels under the name "May McGoldrick":
Nikoo McGoldrick, a mechanical engineer, and James McGoldrick, a professor of English with a Ph.D. in sixteenth-century British literature, collaborate in life as well as in literature. Writing under the name May McGoldrick, they produce historical novels for Penguin- Putnam, and Young Adult Highland romances for HarperCollins/Avon.

Under the name of Jan Coffey, they write contemporary suspense thrillers for MIRA. ("Jan" is an acronym for "Jim and Nikoo; "Coffey" is Nikoo's maiden name.) (NAL)