Romance, Junk, Feminism, and Snow

One more snow picture….That’s me, age 2, sitting on a mound of snow in Buffalo, NY.

I’m pleased to report that the Washington, DC, area easily beat out Buffalo for the most snow this winter. I watched carefully as we inched up to the Syracuse totals…and passed them!!! Yay! We won the city with the most snow for the winter of 2009-2010.

And we totally toasted the 1898-1899 all time record. We’re NUMBER ONE!!!

Being snowed in for a week is a discombobulating experience (Can you tell?). You’d think that I could get lots of writing done, but, then, the neighbors are shoveling and peer pressure demands I get my shovel out. Then there is exhaustion….Lots of looking outside, commenting on how high the snow has gotten, whether the Federal Government (and everything else) would be open or closed…lots of gazing at the Weather Channel.

In between writing, shoveling, checking email, eating, and various other things, I also discovered some interesting discussions about the romance genre, articles that made my brain work AND supported my beliefs (what could be better?).

The is by Jessica Tripler, a romance reader and philosophy professor, whose blog is called Racy Romance Reviews:
Feminist Critique of Romance: Ur Doing It Wrong

Jessica responds to an article in an academic journal. From the article’s abstract:

This article ultimately endeavours to demonstrate that, textually, even the most recent incarnations of the Harlequin Mills & Boon brand fail to withstand feminist scrutiny. … Something of an antidote to the Harlequin Mills & Boon romance, Bridget Jones’s Diary explicitly answers and counters many of the low-brow romance’s perceived ideological failings–from THE BARRISTER’S BEDMATE: Harlequin Mills & Boon and the Bridget Jones Debate” by Rochelle Hurst, Australian Feminist Studies, Vol. 24, No. 62, December 2009

The books Hurst decided to contrast with Bridget Jones’s Diary were the Harlequin Mills and Boon books of Emma Darcy. It may be just me, but I think it’s a bit snarky to put down a fellow Aussie who has been such a phenomenal success. Or perhaps to an Australian who doesn’t read romance, Emma Darcy is the only Australian Romance author, sorta like Nora Roberts…

Anyway, Tripler, with the help of Laura Vivanco of the Teach Me Tonight blog (more about her later) discuss several of Hurst’s misquotes and misteps in her research. Fascinating stuff, even though we hear the same old stereotypes of romance debunked again.

Next, we’re back to Yale. Andrea DaRif (Cara Elliott) and Lauren Willig are still calling attention to the romance genre with their very-first-ever Yale course on Regency Romance. This time The Yale Herald Online has an article by Katherine Orazem called In Defense of Romance: Proving the Stereotypes Wrong . Of course, the article is illustrated with a stereotypic parody of a Romance cover and this teaser: “Katherine Orazem investigates why romance novels do not get the respect (and love) they deserve.” I mean, why stick the “(and love)” in there? Makes no sense when romance outsells all other mass market books.

Orazem’s discussion is interesting and fun and the quotes by Andrea and Lauren and Susan Elizabeth Phillips are terrific. My favorite quote is from Harlequin Historical author, Louise Allen, in response to the feminism vs. romance novel issue: “Among the freedoms I insist upon as a woman is the right to my own fantasies.” Right on, Louise!

By the way, in my previous blog on the Andrea and Lauren’s Yale course, Andrea said she would post the syllabus and reading list when she could. It is now on her website. You’ll notice Amanda’s and Janet’s names on the reading list! I’m just saying….

Laura Vivanco was also quoted in Orazem’s article and has written some of her thoughts about it on the Teach Me Tonight Blog: musings on romance fiction from an academic perspective. Vivanco addresses Romance Novels: Literary Texts or Formulaic Stories? tackling the question of what makes a work literary or what makes it junk.

In her discussion, she quotes from Noël Carroll (“The Paradox of Junk Fiction. Philosophy and Literature 18.2 (1994): 225-241) who says “all cultural products contain a mixture of two kinds of elements: conventions and inventions.” Conventions and inventions! I like that!

Vivanco further mentions another blog discussing Carroll’s article about Junk Fiction–by Jessica Tripler on Racy Romance Reviews. Which brings me full circle. Another stimulating discussion…

What do you think? Do you like academic discussions about romance? Do you have pet peeves about romance stereotypes? Like always discussing present day romance as if they are exactly the same as the “bodice rippers” of the 1970s. Or that all romances are the same. Or that romance is about a woman subjugating herself to a man. What do you think?

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.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Romance, Junk, Feminism, and Snow

Comments are closed.