Abstract: Links between contemporary popular romance and novels of amatory fiction in the eighteenth century have received limited critical attention, but today’s authors of popular romance share significant topics and strategies with those early pioneers of the novel. Focusing on three novels by Jennifer Crusie and the amatory fiction of Delariver Manley, this paper explores the texts’ depictions of voyeuristic images and gossip. Both erotic display and gossip function by negotiating and eliding boundaries delineating public and private spaces; this territory represents a liminal space, one which exists in what Victor Turner describes as the “betwixt and between.” This liminality offers rich creative, transformative possibilities which Manley and Crusie capitalize upon to critique and re-define perceptions of sexuality and gossip. Extending this liminal territory to encompass the author and readers of the texts, Manley and Crusie ultimately encourage relationships with readers that blur boundaries and invite shared creation and possession of their novels.
Abstract: This article examines Jennifer Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation (2000) as a response to academic accounts of the nature and value of reading the popular romance from the 1980s and 1990s and as an anticipation of later, more positive accounts of the relationship of readers and this particular form of fiction, such as Pamela Regis’ A Natural History of the Romance Novel. The structure of Crusie’s novel reveals a counter argument to a series of persistent criticisms of romance readers and their fiction. Through the encounter with the hero, himself a text, the heroine gains textual power as a reader and an author. Her further active participation in the imaginative experience of romance allows her to author a new reality for herself, and to enter into a relationship with the hero that signals a new pattern for their community, overthrowing the patriarchal hierarchy of the past.
Abstract: The human body is a cultural text, and can be therefore be used to promote or resist various social norms. Jennifer Crusie, who defines herself as a writer of feminist romances, uses the bodies of her heroines to countermand several patriarchal assumptions about femininity. Within the Western patriarchal hegemony women are valued primarily for attractiveness, and the unspoken cultural definition of female beauty is a woman who is, among other things, young, thin, and sexually modest. Crusie, by creating heroines who are older, fatter, and more sexually experienced than the “ideal” woman, yet who are still able to establish their social and romantic worth, illustrates the feminist ideology that women have value and accomplishments beyond the limits of the socially paradigmatic definitions of femininity and beauty. Her novels serve as a feminist parables that reaffirm the inherent normalcy and desirability of an imperfect female body.
Abstract: Focusing specifically on three novels written in the mid-‘90s, Strange Bedpersons (1994), What the Lady Wants (1996), and The Cinderella Deal (1996), this article examines the way in which Jennifer Crusie explores alternative and subversive forms of storytelling, including the telling of lies, in order to construct her own version of the romance novel as feminist fiction. Drawing on a constructivist notion of identity, the article explores how Crusie uses the structure of romance narrative as a way of challenging what she sees as ideological lies that are broadly related to essentialist notions that come out of either patriarchal or feminist assumptions about what a woman should do, how she should think, and what she should be interested in. This article shows how, within these novels, storytelling is shown to be an explicitly performative act that allows characters creative powers of self-determination. In casting storytelling in this way, the article argues, Crusie gives the romance genre a political function that is embodied in its capacity to represent and imagine a degree of performative self-determination emerging from the fabric of everyday life.
Abstract: Several of Jennifer Crusie’s novels include characters who are con artists. In an early novel (such as Trust Me on This) such characters are secondary, but in later novels (such as Welcome to Temptation and its sequel Faking It), the characters who are running the cons are increasingly central to the romance and the anticipated “Happily Ever After.”
The presence of such characters raises questions about genre standards such as trust and trustworthiness, intention toward the other person, and ability to deliver on promises made. These elements dictate the outcomes in both con games and romantic relationships.
Further, this paper argues that Crusie’s self-aware style and metanarrative tendencies extend the parallels between a con and a romance from the intimate relationships among characters to the reader-author-text relationinvolved in every literary transaction. Although Crusie’s conning characters may be read as particular anomalies in a generic pattern, they can be also seen to raise issues of reader response in their positing of a “Happily Ever After” that seems, like any good con, too good to be true. This paper concludes by wondering about the pleasures of reading a novel whose happy ending is simultaneously wholly unlikely and generically guaranteed.
Abstract: Lingerie plays a significant role in many of Jennifer Crusie’s romances from Sizzle,“the first book I wrote even though it was published as my third,”through to Bet Me, which she has described as her “last classic romance.” Its function and symbolism varies depending on differences in context, colour, fabric and design: in Bet Me sexy underwear is advocated as a way to catch a husband but in Anyone But You a padded bra forms a barrier to intimacy; lingerie deceives and is discarded in Tell Me Lies but speaks eloquently about its wearers’ sexual desires in Crazy for You. Crusie’s literary lingerie reflects the complexity of women’s relationships with their bodies, their desires, their sexual partners and their friends.
Abstract: Although Francophone romance scholarship dates back to the 1980s, the scholars who write it are not generally familiar with the genre and French readers have rarely been interviewed. After examining why contempt for romantic fiction and romance readers remains predominant in the French academic context, this paper offers a conversational discussion between a scholar (Séverine Olivier) and a reader (Agnès Caubet) about the genre and its reception in France. In 2001, Agnès Caubet created Les Romantiques, the first and currently only Francophone website about the romance genre. Her own experience as reader, the importance of the website, discussion boards, a webzine she managed to launch and the contacts she established with French romance publishers open new perspectives on romantic readers and romance reading.
Abstract: Discussions of rape in popular romance have most often centered on how these scenes affect or reflect the lives of romance readers. Detractors of the genre have used its presence to support the notion that romance is a patriarchal and repressive literary form, while defenders have often pointed to the presence of the rape scene as a way for women to explore their sexuality. This paper advances an entirely different reading. It asserts that the presence of rape functions as a parodic parallel to the violence of falling in love. Divided into three types, the rape scene occurs as a result of the way the hero perceives the heroine and appropriates her identity. These types are: the Rape of Mistaken Identity, the Rape of Possession, and the Rape of Coercion or "Forced Seduction." Each performs a version of the epistemological and ontological questions that arise from an encounter with the Other.
Abstract: Theorists tend to conceive the role of narrative in historiography as emplotment (Hayden White), giving “direction” to readers’ thoughts by its generic choices. This paper argues that in such contexts genre is often hybrid, coupled with other genres or even divided internally. A case in point is the New Zealand film River Queen (Vincent Ward, 2005), where romance complicates and extends an historical narrative of violent, colonial hostilities. Romance glamorizes history; it is also a complex form in itself: love romance, quest, captivity narrative. History becomes affective and intimate. At some level, here, love offers history the fantasy of a “new community” (Regis); or, perhaps just a measure of “restitution” (Sebald).
Abstract: Stefania Bertola is a successful Italian writer of romantic fiction who creatively blends the codes and practices of romanzo rosa, Italy’s tradition of popular romance, with narrative tropes and cultural trends set up by contemporary Anglo-American chick lit. This article examines how Bertola fosters the dialogue among old texts, new ones and their readership through comedy, parody and intertextuality, creating multiple levels of engagement and offering a vibrant and innovative approach to genre fiction.
Abstract: Although the virginal female heroine is a standard trope in popular romance fiction, the male virgin in popular romance novels has yet to be studied or theorised. This study therefore seeks to explore and theorise the male virgin in heterosexual popular romance novels. Initially, I demonstrate at least four “types” of male virgins: the sickly virgin, the student virgin, the genius virgin, and the virgin as commodity. I conclude this theoretical groundwork by considering Eloisa James’ When the Duke Returns, which brings together each of these “types” of male virginity. Ultimately, I argue that male virginity in romance fiction is complex and is distinct from other treatments of male virginity in other popular media.
Abstract: The most interesting things in romantic comedies happen in the middle. It is there that the characteristic tensions between melodramatic intensity and comedic cool, between laughter and frustration, between the social and the psychosexual take place. In this article I want to move away from traditional theories of romcom which privilege the happy ending as the repository of all the meanings and ideology of the genre and theorize the magic space of romantic comedy and its relation with the social world and sexual discourses at the beginning of the 21st century. In order to explore the ways in which this magic space works I focus on two romantic comedies from 2009: The Ugly Truth and (500) Days of Summer.
Abstract: A rhetorical analysis of criticism of popular romance fiction chosen from both the early, influential instances of such criticism as well as from more recent critical work reveals patterns of ethical lapses therein. The special topoi of the literary critical discourse community identified by Laura Wilder provide the coordinates by which to map a better way forward for future romance criticism. An Goris’s response to this argument supplies an alternate, less partisan view.
Abstract: Following on from my previous work in Romance Writing on the “deep structures” of romance, this article speculates further on the temporality of romantic love: in particular, the problems posed by repetition. In the course of my discussion, I move from a consideration of how the various schools of theory that inform our understanding of romantic love deal with repetition, to some suggestions of how romantic literature has negotiated (or, more typically, side-stepped) the issue, before closing with a reflection on the further insights provided by Sarah Waters’s best-selling novel, The Night Watch (2006). The complexity of the relationships featured in this text enable us to probe deeper into how the human subject’s notional compulsion to repetition (Freud) both generates romantic relationships and tests the limits of our more ideal definitions of love.
Abstract: This paper provides a critical response to Pamela Regis’ meta-critical paper “What Do Critics Owe the Romance?” While it endorses Regis’ identification of the methodologically sound selection of study-texts as one of the main challenges faced by the field of popular romance studies, it also formulates a critique of Regis’ account for being ahistorical and undertheorised. It briefly sketches the genealogical development of the field of popular romance studies and reads Regis’ paper as part of the field’s current process of maturation.
Abstract: The earliest attempts to mass-market romance fiction to American women readers in the late nineteenth century were more likely to fail than to flourish. This essay examines the first romance-centered dime novel and story paper series in order to reconsider this puzzling failure, which previous critics have often blamed on either the underdeveloped tastes or inadequate purchasing power of women readers. Paying special attention to Belles and Beaux, the first romance story paper issued by the publishing house of Beadle and Adams—and in particular to the reading environment shaped by the paratextual material appearing alongside the series’ popular love stories—I argue instead that the publishers and editors of the early romance periodicals lacked the courage of their own convictions, routinely diluting or even undermining the very ethos of romance that their publications were, in theory, designed to provide. Not until publishers gave women readers what they had been promised—periodicals unreservedly committed to the project of romance—did mass-marketed romance finally flourish in the U.S.
Abstract: Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight saga and Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries both portray a romance between a human female and a male vampire, borrowing many conventions from romance novels and Gothic fiction. Both series introduce a new breed of vampires that refrain from drinking human blood, betraying the traditional image of vampires as sexually transgressive creatures. The romantic plotlines between the heroines and those safe vampire heroes reflect contemporary women’s lowered sense of danger concerning sexuality and heightened sense of danger in terms of the boundaries of self, yet each of the series shows a completely different development from each other. Twilight ends with a fairytale ending free from worries and responsibilities, while Sookie of the Southern Vampire Mysteries realizes that her safe hero is not safe after all, and that she has to reconsider her perception of sexuality and self in order to negotiate the risk of contemporary romance.
Abstract: Romance writers employ a variety of linguistic strategies in order to express the emotions of their characters. Studying the translations of romances allows us to examine how emotions are expressed and described in other languages and cultures, based on claims that different cultures favor different ways of conveying emotions. Romances as cultural products offer potentially rich material for this purpose. Employing the concept of Toury’s translation norms, the paper shows how culture can affect the expression of emotions in the particular genre. To this aim selected examples from Greek translations of modern English-language romances will be analyzed and combined with observations on the communication of emotions from modern Greek romances.
Abstract: This article takes a comparative approach to the Greek romantic comedy, a genre whose popularity in the 21st century coincided with a resurgence of its Hollywood counterpart. The goal is to study the ideologies of gender in the representation of weddings and of marriage through textual analysis of the three most commercially successful Greek romantic comedies of the new millennium: The Kiss of Life (To Fili tis… Zois), 2007; Just Broke Up (Molis Horisa), 2008; and S.E.X. (Soula Ela Xana), 2009.
Abstract: This article is a comparative analysis of Rosamond Lehmann's Dusty Answer (1927) and The Weather in the Streets (1936). It positions the romance plot of these fictions as part of a wider narrative concerning the single woman in the interwar years. Drawing on contexts of middlebrow culture, it tracks the single woman's renegotiation of romance in Lehmann's novels, arguing that the single woman appears as a fragmented and conflicted figure.