Scholarly and Scandalous

I do not at all pretend to be scholarly and I am way too boring to be scandalous, but I’ll use these words to write about what has captured my interest these last couple of days.

First, take a look at this article in the New Haven Register, They’re Teaching a Romance Novel Course at Yale But It Is Not What You Think

The course is being taught by our Regency Pals and Yale alumni, Andrea DaRif (Andrea Pickens/Cara Elliott) and Lauren Willig.

Description of the course from the college syllabus: The Regency romance tradition from the works of Jane Austen to modern permutations of the genre. Discussion of novels in textual, historical, and sociological context through examination of changing tropes and themes.

The romance community has known about this course for some time (follow links in Andrea/Cara’s website), but it is fun to see it getting wider press. A Google search shows that lots of sites are picking up on the Register article.

Sarah at Smart Bitches mentions the course, as well as a documentary film in progress about the making of romance novels being made for PBS’s American Experience (Can’t wait to hear more about that one!).

One of the things I love about the Yale course is that it is focussing on REGENCY Romance, which I think is a first in the small but growing trend to include study of romance novels in Engligh programs. It is the first Ivy League school to have such a course. Apparently 80 people tried to sign up for the course, which only had 18 spaces.

I was an English major in college and I would have loved to take such a course. I always thought reading my way through my major was the cushiest way to earn a degree, but it would have been even better to read what I loved. Even more, it would have been a delight to discuss the books I love in a serious, scholarly way.

We’ll have to check in with Cara and Lauren at the end of the course to see how it went.

While we are on the subject of academia, I also learned about a blog by a George Mason University Jane Austen scholar about Grace Dalrymple Elliot, the subject of Jo Manning’s wonderful biography, My Lady Scandalous. Moody both lauds Jo’s achievement, yet is dismayed by the book’s title and presentation, which seems to me to be designed for popular consumption.

Moody particularly objects to the use of the word “scandalous” in the title, making the point that it depreciates Elliot as a strong woman of her time by defining her in terms of her sexual history rather than her own achievements. I’m sure I’m not representing her opinion accurately, but it was an interesting blog and and interesting debate with Jo Manning in the comments section.

I do think it a truth that women of the late 18th-early 19th century who wound up as courtesans were considered scandalous at the time. Freedoms we modern women take for granted – being able to leave destructive marriages, having the freedom to have a sexual life, the right to earn a living and keep custody of our children – were not available to women in Regency times. Yet strong women like Grace Elliot still existed and managed to live amazing lives.

If you were designing a course in Regency Romance what authors would you have the students read?

Do you have a pet peeve about how historical women are viewed by us today?

Visit Risky Regencies this Saturday, Feb 6, when our own Cara King returns to tell us about her Regency Ball!

Check my website for my latest news, like the fact that The Wagering Widow, re-released in a double book, Regency High-Society Affairs Vol. 12 (free shipping from Book Depository and a discount, too). Plenty of time to enter my contest for a chance to win two copies of The Marriage Bargain, my Diane Perkins book.

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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