The romance industry has profited on the fantasies of women for centuries. However, as a new generation of women raised under the guidance of second-wave feminists take up the reins of romance production, romance novels and films have increasingly challenged tired stereotypes labeling romantic stories as formulaic fodder. This book examines how the romance genre serves women in multiple ways, from escapism to sexual education, from fantasy to fun, and most importantly, as a site of production for feminist texts.An excerpt is available.
Lisa Fletcher has co-written Island Genres, Genre Islands with Ralph Crane. It is the first volume in Rowman & Littlefield's 'Rethinking the Island' series and focuses on four genres--crime fiction, the spy thriller, popular romance, and fantasy--to show that genre is fundamental to both the textual representation of real and imagined islands and to actual knowledges and experiences of the 'geospace' of islands. The book offers broad, comparative readings of the significance of islandness in each of the four genres as well as detailed case studies of major authors and texts. These include chapters on Agatha Christie's islands, the role of the island in 'Bondspace,' the romantic islophilia of Nora Roberts's Three Sisters Island trilogy, and the archipelagic geography of Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea.
Out on 1 February 2017 from Baylor was Kecia Ali's Human in Death: Morality and Mortality in J. D. Robb's Novels.
Through close readings of more than fifty novels and novellas published over two decades, Ali analyzes the ethical world of Robb’s New York circa 2060. Ali explores Robb’s depictions of egalitarian relationships, satisfying work, friendships built on trust, and an array of models of femininity and family. At the same time, the series’ imagined future replicates some of the least admirable aspects of contemporary society. Sexual violence, police brutality, structural poverty and racism, and government surveillance persist in Robb’s fictional universe, raising urgent moral challenges. So do ordinary ethical quandaries around trust, intimacy, and interdependence in marriage, family, and friendship.
Ali celebrates the series’ ethical successes, while questioning its critical moral omissions. She probes the limits of Robb’s imagined world and tests its possibilities for fostering identity, meaning, and mattering of human relationships across social difference. Ali capitalizes on Robb’s futuristic fiction to reveal how careful and critical reading is an ethical act.
Representing Difference in the Medieval and Modern Orientalist Romance was published 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.
Catherine Roach's Happily Ever After: The Romance Story in Popular Culture is published by Indiana University Press (2016). She proposes "that romance novels have nine essential elements": "It is hard to be alone"; "It is a man's world"; "Romance is a religion of love"; "Romance involves risk"; "Romance involves hard work"; "Romance facilitates healing"; "Romance leads to great sex, especially for women"; "Romance makes you happy"; "Romance levels the playing field for women" (see her post for the RNA).
“Find your one true love and live happily ever after.” The trials of love and desire provide perennial story material, from the Biblical Song of Songs to Disney’s princesses, but perhaps most provocatively in the romance novel, a genre known for tales of fantasy and desire, sex and pleasure. Hailed on the one hand for its women-centered stories that can be sexually liberating, and criticized on the other for its emphasis on male/female coupling and mythical happy endings, romance fiction is a multi-million dollar publishing phenomenon, creating national and international societies of enthusiasts, practitioners, and scholars. Catherine Roach, alongside her romance-writer alter-ego, Catherine LaRoche, guides the reader deep into Romancelandia where the smart and the witty combine with the sexy and seductive to explore why this genre has such a grip on readers and what we can learn from the romance novel about the nature of happiness, love, sex, and desire in American popular culture.
Romance Fiction and American Culture brings together scholars from the humanities, social sciences, and publishing to explore American romance fiction from the late eighteenth to the early twenty-first century. Essays on interracial, inspirational, and LGBTQ romance attend to the diversity of the genre, while new areas of inquiry are suggested in contextual and interdisciplinary examinations of romance authorship, readership, and publishing history, of pleasure and respectability in African American romance fiction, and of the dynamic tension between the genre and second wave feminism. As it situates romance fiction among other instances of American love culture, from Civil War diaries to Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, Romance Fiction and American Culture confirms the complexity and enduring importance of this most contested of genres.
John Markert argues in Publishing Romance: The History of an Industry, 1940s to the Present that
Romance novels have attracted considerable attention since their mass market debut in 1939, yet seldom has the industry itself been analyzed. Founded in 1949, Harlequin quickly gained market domination with their contemporary romances. Other publishers countered with historical romances, leading to the rise of “bodice-ripper” romances in the 1970s. The liberation of the romance novel’s content during the 1980s brought a vitality to the market that was dubbed a revolution, but the real romance revolution began in the 1990s with developments in the mainstream publishing industry and continues today. This book traces the history and evolution of the romance industry, covering successful (and not so successful) trends and describing changes in romance publishing that paved the way for the many popular subgenres flooding the market in the 21st century.
Laura Vivanco's Pursuing Happiness: Reading American Romance as Political Fiction was published at the beginning of 2016. It
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.Romance author Isobel Carr has described it as "an insightful and entertaining look at the inherent, often invisible, politics that underlie America’s most popular genre of fiction".
The paperback edition of Women and Erotic Fiction: Critical Essays on Genres, Markets and Readers was published on 30 November 2015 (it became available for Kindle in August):
Erotic texts written by and for women play a significant role in negotiating relations of gender, sexuality and kinship, and in shaping popular ideas about romance and the erotic. Examining the ""mainstreaming"" of women's erotica following the runaway success of Fifty Shades of Grey , this collection of new essays focuses on the publication and reception of women's popular erotic fiction across various genres and cultural contexts. The contributors draw connections between feminist and cultural studies scholarship on visual pornography and critical research on popular romance fiction. Essays explore a range of writing: popular erotic romance novels; ""feminist porn""; male/male and menage fiction; lesbian romance; sex blogs; new Chinese erotica; BDSM novels; and slash fiction. Topics discussed include the ideological and critical aspects of popular texts, audiences and fan communities, the disciplinary function of popular speech about women's erotic fiction, and the technological and social shifts which have facilitated women's access to new forms of erotic material.
Kim Gallon is working on "a book manuscript entitled Covering the Race in Black and White: Sexuality and Modern Black Newspapers, 1925-1945." [She has blogged about the "black world of love and romance [which] waited to be discovered in the pages of early 20th-century black magazines and newspapers" at the Popular Romance Project.]
An Goris is
currently writing a monograph on American romance author Nora Roberts. Based on her PhD dissertation (2011), the book explores the shifting relationship between genre and authorship in Roberts's oeuvre and traces the novelist's remarkable evolution from a semi-anonymous romance writer to one of the bestselling authors in the world.
Joanna Gregson and Jennifer Lois are carrying out a sociological study of the romance writing community, focusing on "the stigma of the genre and how the preponderance of women in the romance-writing industry affects the subculture as a whole" and intend publishing a number of papers and, hopefully, a book on the topic.
Stacy E. Holden "is currently researching and writing a monograph that addresses the long and intense fascination in the US with tales of Americans taken captive by Muslims, a fascination that extends from the colonial era to the present. Post-9/11 desert romances will be an important component of this new research project" (Holden).
Johanna Hoorenman "is currently working on a cultural history of Native American themed popular romance novels, tracing the roots of the subgenre to early American women's captivity narratives and James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans" (http://muse.jhu.edu/article/662582)
career-long project, which began with A Natural History of the Romance Novel, is to define, analyze, and write the history of the genre based on as synoptic a knowledge of the entire history of the novel as I can muster.Eric Murphy Selinger has outlined his plans for How to Read a Romance Novel (and Fall in Love with Popular Romance) here at Teach Me Tonight. He envisages writing a book which will
The romance is a world-wide phenomenon, but I would argue that American romance holds a place near the center of the genre’s concerns, and its history deserves a separate treatment. I wish to write that history.
The proposed project will involve first identifying the novels of American authors that contain the eight elements of the romance novel laid out in my earlier book. From this will emerge the first identification of America’s national canon of romance. Analysis of these novels with an eye to identifying the essential components of an American romance, which is to say, those characteristics that the author’s nationality and its attendant culture imbue it with, will define our romance tradition. (RWA)
introduce its readers to a bunch of late-20th and early 21st century British and American romance novels that I quite like, from a range of subgenres, from Christian inspirational novels to paranormal, erotic, and LGBTQ romance, with the focus of each chapter being one to three novels that I read in depth, attending both to internal complexity and to a novel’s dialogue with literary or cultural contexts.
If you know of another forthcoming publication in the area of romance which should be added to this list, please contact Laura Vivanco.