Thursday, April 21, 2016

Keira Soleore reports back on the PCA/ACA conference

Keira Soleore has posted summaries of papers presented on romance at the recent PCA/ACA conference:
The Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association's national conference was on Tuesday, March 22 in Seattle. I attended five of the seven sessions in the Romance Area, which was chaired by Eric Selinger of DePaul University.
Keira's first post summarises

"Novel" Representations of Female Sexuality in Popular Fiction Across Cultures by Claire Watson

Aspirational Labor in the Creative Industries: Becoming a “Real” Romance Writer by Jen Lois

Analyzing Dan Savage's "Monogamish" Claim by Shaun Miller

Keira's second post summarises

Poldark As Anti-Antihero: Rebooting Romantic Masculinity for an Age of Crisis by Kyle Sclabach

All Around Great Guys, Mostly: The Evolving Romantic Hero in Literary Webseries by Margaret Selinger

Alpha, Beta, and the Ambiguous Omega: The Diversity of Heroes by Veera Mäkelä

Constructing Black Masculinities in Romance Fiction by Julie Moody-Freeman

Keira's third post summarises

"Lifting as We Climb": Iola LeRoy and the Early African-American Romance by Pamela Regis

Making It American: Epic Romance and the National Myth by Maryan Wherry

You Say Anal Like It's A Bad Thing by Meagan Gacke

Muslim Love American Style: Islamic-American Hybrid Culture and Romance in Muslim Fiction by Layla Abdullah-Poulos

Keira's fourth post summarises

Session Four, on Diversity in Historical Romance


Lady Catherine's Descendents: Examples of the Older Other Woman in Romance Fiction by Olivia Waite

A Short Inquiry into the Gothic Romance by Angela Toscano

Friday, April 08, 2016

New Pages (and Videos) on Love (and Romance Scholarship)

Documentary-maker Laurie Kahn invited Eric
to curate some “Resource Pages” of links relevant to topics raised in Love Between the Covers, the romance documentary, and they’re now live!  They’re designed to be of use both to teachers and curious readers.
The pages include links to video-clips, documents and other web-pages on the topics of

Over on the website of Kahn's production company, you can see videos taken at the Library of Congress during
What Is Love? Romance Fiction in the Digital Age [...] a two-day Popular Romance Project conference that brought romance authors, readers, publishers, and scholars in many disciplines together for four fascinating panel discussions.
The links below take you straight to the videos on Vimeo:

Panel 1 discussed "What Belongs in the Romance Canon?"

Panel 2 asked "What Do The Science and History of Romance Reveal?"

Panel 3 looked at "Community and the Romance Genre"

Panel 4 focused on what's "Trending Now: Where is Romance Fiction Heading in the Digital Age?"

Details about all of the panelists, panels and the introduction to the conference as well as all the videos can be found here.

Also out recently is a podcast featuring Lisa Fletcher,
one of the scholars working on a project called Genre worlds: Australian popular fiction in the 21st century (2016–2019). This project won an RWA (US) grant, followed by a very prestigious grant from the Australia Research Council. Lisa talks about the project’s goals and  methodology, as well as other themes and topics in popular fiction that pique her interest. She also talks about the challenges of teaching romance at university, and some of the books and techniques she uses in her classes.
The podcast can be found here.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

CFP: Representations of Romantic Relationships and the Romance Genre in Contemporary Women’s Writing

Representations of Romantic Relationships and the Romance Genre in Contemporary Women’s Writing

Saturday 11th June 2016, Sheffield Hallam University

Co-hosted with the Postgraduate Contemporary Women’s Writing Network

‘…It would be at best grossly incurious and at worst sadly limited for literary critics to ignore a genre that millions and millions of women read voraciously’ (Pornography for Women is Different, Ann Snitow, 1979)
Almost forty years have passed since Snitow’s ardent defence of the importance of recognising and examining the romance genre, however critical consideration of the romance remains limited. Some have suggested that this could be a result of a snobbery associated with romantic fiction, or perhaps even more startlingly due to a general lack of interest in the literature women write and read (Light [1984], Philips [2006] and Radway [1984]). Critic Emily S. Davis states ‘Romance…does not get much love in critical circles…it is no coincidence that the areas most frequently dismissed as inconsequential…are precisely those identified with disempowered groups such as women and queers.’

Although there remains an overall absence of criticism the importance of women writers’ relationship with the romance and the effect it has on women readers has been acknowledged, particularly in relation to feminism. In ‘‘Returning to Manderley’ – Romance Fiction, Female Sexuality and Class’ Alison Light acknowledges that romances are ‘…often seen as coercive and stereotyping narratives which invite the reader to identify with a passive heroine who only finds true happiness in submitting to a masterful male.’ In contrast the most well-known and acclaimed critic on the genre, Janice A. Radway, stressed ‘Romance is being changed and struggled over by the women who write them.’ Indeed, contemporary women writers from the Booker Prize winning Margaret Atwood to the self-proclaimed ‘chick-lit’ writer Sophie Kinsella have written novels which use the romance genre and/or focus on romantic relationships and could be seen to be part of a re-writing of the genre.

Given the significant links between the romance, women writers and women readers, conversation around the presence of the genre in contemporary fiction is crucial. This symposium seeks to encourage this discussion.

Topics may include yet are not limited to the thematic list below:

• The presence of romantic relationships and the use of the romance genre in contemporary women’s writing

• The relationship between the romance genre and feminism

• The perception of romance as a low-brow genre, and the extent to which this perception offers critical and intellectual insights into debates about how we define women’s writing and cultural contribution

• The future of the romance genre within contemporary women’s literature

A 250-word abstract for 20-minute papers including a brief personal statement, should be submitted to by Friday 8th April 2016.

[Details as posted at]

Saturday, March 19, 2016

CFP: Romance at the Midwest Popular Culture Association

Call for Papers: Popular Romance

2016 Midwest Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Conference
Thursday-Sunday, October 6-9, 2016
Chicago, IL
Hilton Rosemont Chicago O’Hare
(Conference info:

Deadline for submission: 30 April 2016.

Love and romance are pervasive elements in popular culture, showing up in film, television, fiction, manga, advertising, advice columns, pop songs, and more. We are interested in any and all topics about or related to popular romance and its representations in popular culture (fiction, stage, screen—large or small, commercial, advertising, music, song, dance, online, real life, etc.)

Topics can include, but are not limited to:
•       critical approaches, such as readings informed by critical race theory, queer theory, postcolonial studies, or empirical science
•       depictions in the media and popular culture (e.g., film, television, literature, comics)
•       literature and fiction (genre romance, poetry, animé)
•       types of relationships (marriage, gay and lesbian)
•       historical practices and traditions of and in romance
•       regional and geographic pressures and influences (southern, Caribbean)
•       material culture (valentines, foods, fashions)
•       folklore and mythologies
•       jokes and humor
•       romantic love in political discourse (capitalism)
•       psychological approaches toward romantic attraction
•       emotional and sexual desire
•       subcultures: age (seniors, adolescents), multi-ethnic, inter-racial
•       individual creative producers or texts of popular romance
•       gender-bending and gender-crossing

Submit a one-page (200-250 words) proposal or abstract by 30 April 2016 to the Popular Romance area on the MPCA/ACA website Please include name, affiliation, and e-mail address with your abstract. MPCA/ACA can provide an LCD projector for presentations, but it must be requested with your proposal. If necessary, indicate and submit potential scheduling conflicts along with your proposal. If you wish your presentation to be listed as MACA (rather than MPCA), please include this request with your proposal.

More conference information can be found at

For further inquiries or concerns, please contact Popular Romance Area Chair, Maryan Wherry,

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

RWA Academic Award-Winners and a CFP

The Romance Writers of America have announced that this year:
Two RWA Academic Research Grants were funded: (1) Kelly Choyke’s project, “The Power of Popular Romance Culture: An Ethnography of Feminism, the Romance Genre, and Womanhood in North America,” and (2) Joanna Gregson and Jennifer Lois’s project, “Shifting Identities and Reimagined Careers: Romance Authors and the Self-Publishing Revolution.”
Kelly, "a teacher at Ohio University and a Ph.D. Candidate in Women’s Studies", last year "approached the RWA/NYC chapter to solicit interviews for her research study, The Power of Popular Romance Culture: An Ethnography of Feminism and the Romance Genres" (Macwilliam).

Gregson and Lois's previous project on romance was covered by the New York Times.

Thanks to jay Dixon for alerting me to the following CFP (details announced here) which isn't about romance novels, but is in a closely related area so I thought I'd post it here:

CFP: The Power of Love 
An area of multiple panels for the 2016 Film & History Conference:
Gods and Heretics: Figures of Power and Subversion in Film and Television
October 26-October 30, 2016
The Milwaukee Hilton
Milwaukee, WI (USA)

When romance is brought to life on film and television, it becomes a public discourse capable of either normalizing or challenging behaviors and activating social criticism. Debates over the shape and form of love on the silver screen have been at the center of film and television history, pointing to its significant cultural power. This area, then, will explore both “the power of love” in screen history and the implications of love in film and television.
Who are we allowed to love, where, when, why, and how? What do these various relationships illustrate about our social worlds? Under what circumstances are characters not allowed to love, and why? What role have entertainment executives and other key figures played in dictating “appropriate” behavior through on-screen loves? By analyzing the patterned representation and censorship of love, film and television scholars can address the important dialectic between what is revealed to us and what is concealed during any historical period, highlighting the critical power of love.

This area invites 20-minute papers or complete panels that explore the varying powers of love. Possibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Forbidden Love and Unlikely Couples 
  • Censoring Love: The Production Code and Beyond 
  • What’s Love Got to Do With It?: Plot and Narrative
  • From Real to Reel: Biographical Romance
  • The Politics of Teaching Desire 
  • Speaking Love: The Power of Dialogue
  • Bachelors and Bachelorettes: Normalizing Gender Roles in Reality TV
Proposals for complete panels (three related presentations) are also welcome, but they must include an abstract and contact information, including an e-mail address, for each presenter. For updates and registration information about the upcoming meeting, see the Film & History website (

Please e-mail your 200-word proposal by June 1, 2016, to the area chair:

Nicole Amber Haggard
Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

New to the Wiki: Around the World with Romance

This is a collection of recent items in the media, journal articles and details of two new books on popular romance fiction.
Chandra, Elizabeth, 2015. 
"Blossoming Dahlia: Chinese Women Novelists in Colonial Indonesia", Southeast Asian Studies 4.3: 533-564.
De Vera, Ruel S., 2016. 'The Rise of the Filipino Romance in English', Asiannewsnetwork, 7 March 2016.
Markert, John, 2016. 
Publishing Romance: The History of an Industry, 1940s to the Present. ???: McFarland. Abstract and table of contents
McAlister, Jodi, 2016. 
'Traveling Through Time and Genre: Are the Outlander Books Romance Novels?', Adoring Outlander: Essays on Fandom, Genre and the Female Audience, ed. Valerie Estelle Frankel (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland), pp. 94-105. Excerpt
Page, Thomas, 2016. 'Beyond heartache and Boko Haram: Nigerian women prove love is universal', CNN, 16 February 2016.
Roach, Catherine M., 2016. 
Happily Ever After: The Romance Story in Popular Culture (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press).Excerpt

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Call for Papers: Romance in the Zombie Genre

Romancing the Zombie: Falling in Love with the Undead in the 21st Century

Ashley Szanter, Weber State University
Jessica K. Richards, Weber State University

Project Overview:

Editors Szanter and Richards seek original essays for an edited collection on romance in the zombie genre. This collection is under contract with McFarland Publishers. The 21st century has seen a greater willingness to portray the undead as possible candidates for sexual and romantic partnership as well as engaging with overarching themes of romance and relationships in apocalyptic settings. Romance is a generally neglected corner of zombie scholarship largely because of its implied necrophilia. However, it is flourishing in films, literature, and television shows that explore romantic relationships with corpses in various states of decay. This collection will explore this generation’s relatively new tendency to sexualize zombies as attractive and alluring.

Abstract Due Dates:

Preference will be given to abstracts received before May 15, 2016. Abstracts should be no longer than 350 words and be accompanied by a current CV.

Final manuscripts of 6,000-8,000 words should be submitted in MLA style by September 15, 2016.

More details here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

CFP: Masculinity and Romance

Masculinity Studies Meets Popular Romance

Deadline: January 6, 2017
In her canonical and contested study Reading the Romance, Janice Radway describes the romance hero as characterized by an “exemplary” and “spectacular” masculinity. Romantic films, TV, and popular music likewise offer what Eva Illouz calls “ideal-typical” representations of men and masculinity, even as popular culture often insists that “real men” have no interest in romance media. What, then, can critical and historical studies of men and masculinities offer to the study of popular romance media? And what can attention to popular romance teach us about blind-spots and other lacunae in the study of men and masculinities?
The Journal of Popular Romance Studies solicits papers for a special issue on masculinity and popular romance media, now and in the past, from anywhere in the world. We are interested in how masculinities are and have been represented in the texts of both heterosexual and queer popular romance media, including fan-produced media. We are also interested in papers on masculinity in the marketing of such media (e.g., movie trailers and romance novel covers), and in the discourse of the global romance communities that produce, enjoy, and discuss such media (editorial guidelines, recaps and reviews, blog posts, Tumblrs, etc.). Papers that explore the intersection of masculinity with other cultural phenomena, including race, religion, and class, are welcome.
For this issue, we define both “romance” and “masculinities” broadly. We are open to submissions about texts from the margins of love and romance culture (e.g., “bromances”) as well as those which focus on texts which participate wholeheartedly in the popular culture of romantic love. We also recognize that masculinity does not belong exclusively to cisgendered men’s bodies, and we encourage the submission of papers that follow Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s call for scholars of gender “to drive a wedge in, early and often, and if possible conclusively, between the two topics, masculinity and men, whose relation to one another it is so difficult not to presume.”
This special issue will be edited by Jonathan A. Allan, Canada Research Chair in Queer Theory (Brandon University) and Eric Murphy Selinger (DePaul University). Papers of between 5,000 and 10,000 words, including notes and bibliography, should be sent to Erin Young ( To facilitate blind peer review, please remove your name and other identifying information from the manuscript. Submissions should be Microsoft Word documents, with citations in MLA format.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Paperback of Pursuing Happiness and Bonus Material

Pursuing Happiness: Reading American Romance as Political Fiction is now available in paperback via Amazon (.com, .uk and others) and to celebrate I've put up some bonus material on my website.

It's a short discussion of just one category romance, which raises a lot of the issues I discuss in much greater detail in Pursuing Happiness.

Friday, February 12, 2016

CFP: The Romance of Science Fiction/Fantasy

CALL FOR PAPERS:  The Romance of Science Fiction / Fantasy
Deadline: September 30, 2016

Whether we consider romance novels incorporating elements of the fantastic, the future, or the alien, or works of Science Fiction/Fantasy exploring love, desire, and other aspects of romantic culture, the relationship between these genres has been enduring and productive. Following up on a series of joint panels at the 2016 national conference of the Popular Culture Association, the Journal of Popular Romance Studies calls for papers for a special issue on the intersections between romance and science fiction/fantasy in fiction (including fan fic), film, TV, and other media, now and in the past, from anywhere in the world.  This special issue will be guest edited by Gillian I. Leitch, PCA co-chair for SF/Fantasy, and Erin Young.

Contributions might consider questions like the following, either in terms of particular texts (novels, films, TV shows, etc.) or in terms of genre, audience, and media history:

·         How has the intersection of these two popular genres opened up new possibilities in conceptualizing gender, desire, sexuality, love, courtship, or relationship structure, not just recently, but since the earliest years of SF/Fantasy? 
·         How has their intersection allowed us to see existing concepts of gender, desire, sexuality, love, courtship, and relationship structure in fresh or critical ways? 
·         How have authors, filmmakers, producers, and fans played these genres against one another, for example by using romance to critique traditions in SF/F, or SF/F to critique the tropes of romance?  How has this counterpoint been explored by authors, filmmakers, producers, and fans of color, or by LBGTQIA creators and audiences?
·         How might reading classics of SF/F as romance change our perception of them: works like Dune and the Witch World novels, The Left Hand of Darkness, or even E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman series, which are threaded on a tale of eugenic love? 
·         What happens to works of paranormal, futuristic, or time-travel romance when we read them through the lenses provided by SF/Fantasy Studies?
·         What happens when teaching works of SF/Fantasy and popular romance? How do these genres co-exist or compete in pedagogical experience or classroom practice?
·         How do works of SF/Fantasy and popular romance coexist and interact in library ecosystems? What issues arise in terms of collection development, readers advisory, or community engagement?

Papers of between 5,000 and 10,000 words, including notes and bibliography, should be sent to Erin Young ( To facilitate blind peer review, please remove your name and other identifying information from the manuscript.  Submissions should be Microsoft Word documents, with citations in MLA format.

The Journal of Popular Romance Studies is a double-blind peer reviewed interdisciplinary journal exploring popular romance fiction and the logics, institutions, and social practices of romantic love in global popular culture. JPRS is available without subscription at

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."