Monday, December 24, 2012

Teaching the History of the Book with Harlequins

In a recent article in Public Services Quarterly, Lois G. Hendrickson reviews a week she spent "immersed in a course entitled 'Teaching the History of the Book' (370) at Rare Book School. This is a course which investigates "different ways of thinking about, designing, and conducting a course on the history of the book. It is a course, not on the history of books and printing, but on the teaching of that subject" (RBS). The reason it came to my attention was that the students'
initiation into the complex processes of book analysis [began] by examining Harlequin romance novels. As it turns out, romance novels provide a perfect entrée into book history by enabling the class to develop a common vocabulary and acquire the tools to interpret the parts of the whole. We set out to answer the question of how these books, the Harlequins, make their meaning. This is the question we attempt to answer over and over during the week with increasing intensity and depth. Our instructor, Mr. Suarez, leads us in unpacking the social codes and elements of the novels, including the author persona, bindings, paper, price, and typeface. He models approaches to these books, be it reading, reception, or technology, and pairs them with fascinating and relevant stories. Lest you think the Harlequins beneath contemplation, we learned that they are 60% of the book and e-book trade, which led to a fascinating discussion on packaging, the pace of publication, and distribution channels.
I wish Michael F. Suarez would write up some of this and submit it to the Journal of Popular Romance Studies.

Hendrickson, Lois G. "Seeing into Books: Lessons from Rare Book School." Public Services Quarterly 8.4 (2012): 369-372.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

CFP: The Erotic

8th Global Conference

Thursday 19th September – Saturday 21st September 2013
Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom

Mapping the field of the erotic is a complex and frustrating endeavour; as something which permeates lived experience, interpersonal relationships, intellectual reflection, aesthetic tastes and sensibilities, the erotic is clearly multi-layered and requires a plethora of approaches, insights and perspectives if we are to better to understand, appreciate and define it.

This inter- and trans- disciplinary project seeks to explore critical issues in relation to eroticism and the erotic through its history, its emergence in human development, both individual and phylogenetic, as well as its expression in national and cultural histories across the world, including issues of transgression and censorship. The project will also explore erotic imagination and its representation in art, art history, literature, film and music. These explorations inevitably touch on the relationship between sexualities, gender and bodies, along with questions concerning the perverse, fetishism and fantasy, pornography and obscenity.

300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday 22nd March 2013.

More details here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Female Werewolves

Over at my personal blog I've been running a series about the study of popular culture. In the first post I suggested that while
We may have detailed maps of the "known knowns," [...] beyond them lie the "known unknowns," those areas of popular culture about which we know we know little. And then, beyond them, are the "unknown unknowns." Before we accept reports that "something hasn't happened" before, we might want to try to do more research, to verify whether one of those "unknown unknowns" is the knowledge that it has, in fact, happened before.
In the second, I responded to Erin S. Young's "Flexible Heroines, Flexible Narratives: The Werewolf Romances of Kelley Armstrong and Carrie Vaughn" (2011). My feeling was that some of the history of romantic fiction was an "unknown unknown" to Young.

Today Dr Hannah Priest is posting about the traditions concerning female werewolves. The details are interesting in themselves, but Hannah also draws
attention to a common issue with studies of contemporary paranormal fictions: which precedents should be cited. In the case of werewolves (and, perhaps even more, vampires), the temptation is to hold up twentieth-century cinematic monsters as the tradition and to read twenty-first-century romance iterations as a subversion. Sadly, more often than not, it is also twentieth-century cinematic male monsters that are held up as the norm, denying a long and complex history of presenting female monsters. If we follow this approach, we will undoubtedly read paranormal romance’s creatures of the night as subversive and paradigm-altering. However, this is a misleading simplification that ignores millennia of literature and story-telling.
I'd encourage you to read Hannah's summary of "millennia of literature and story-telling" about female werewolves.
The image dates from 1951 or 1952 and was "Originally published by Irving Klaw, republished in Bizarre Comix Volume 9." I found it at Wikimedia Commons where it is deemed to be "in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1963 and although there may or may not have been a copyright notice, the copyright was not renewed."

Saturday, December 15, 2012

CFP: Gender & Love

3rd Global Conference: Gender & Love 
Sunday 15th September – Tuesday 17th September 2013
Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom

The study of gender is an interdisciplinary field intertwined with feminism, queer studies, sexuality studies, postcolonial studies, and cultural studies (to name just some relevant fields).

This project calls for the consideration of gender in relation to various kinds of love (with regard, for example, to self, spirit, religion, family, friendship, ethics, nation, globalisation, environment, and so on). How do the interactions of gender and love promote particular performances of gender; conceptions of individual and collective identity; formations of community; notions of the human; understandings of good and evil? These are just some of the questions that occupy this project.

This conference welcomes research papers which seek to understand the interaction and interconnection between the concepts of love and gender; and whether, when, how and in what ways the two concepts conceive and construct each other.
One strand of the conference, on which "Papers, presentations, workshops and pre-formed panels are invited," will focus on
Representations of Gender and Love
* Aesthetics and Intelligibility
* Gendered Narrations of Love
* Media, Gender and Love

The Steering Group particularly welcomes the submission of pre-formed panel proposals. Papers will also be considered on any related theme.
The deadline by which 300-word abstracts should be submitted is Friday 22nd March 2013. More details here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Weighing up Chick Lit vs. Romance

Laura Vivanco

I don't have the necessary expertise to comment on the methodology used in
Kaminski, Melissa J. and Robert G. Magee. "Does This Book Make Me Look Fat?: The Effect of Protagonist Body Weight and Body Esteem on Female Readers' Body Esteem." Body Image (2012).
However, since some of you do, and since it makes a change from the more common concerns about romance having a negative effect on women's relationships, I thought I'd post about it. The authors describe chick lit as "a new genre of romance novels" which "differs from traditional romance novels in its focus on women’s struggles with their weight, dating, and stressful careers." They later add that "Compared with chick lit, traditional romance novels might be less obsessed with women’s body size."

Here's the abstract:
Effects of visual representations of the thin ideal in the media have been widely explored, but textual representations of the thin ideal in novels have received scant attention. The chick literature genre has been criticized for depicting characters who worry about their body weight and who have poor body esteem. Excerpts from two chick lit novels were used to examine the effect of a protagonist’s body weight and body esteem on college women’s (N = 159) perceptions of their sexual attractiveness and weight concern. Two narratives were used to minimize the possibility that idiosyncratic characteristics of one excerpt might influence the study’s results. Underweight (vs. healthy weight) protagonists predicted readers’ lower perceived sexual attractiveness. Protagonists with low body esteem (vs. control) predicted readers’ increased weight concern. Scholars and health officials should be concerned about the effect chick lit novels might have on women’s body image.
The image is one I've cropped slightly, having found the original at Wikimedia Commons. It shows a scene in Berlin in 1947 and came from the German Federal Archive as part of a cooperation project.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Talking Sense About Fifty $hade$ of Grey

According to John Lennard, my editor at Humanities Ebooks,
E. L. James has had an enormous amount of free publicity from journalists who don't have the slightest understanding or concern about what she's done to fandom, to feminism, and to the efforts of the BDSM community to gain recognition and end legal persecution. But that story is there in the fannish archives, and I've set it out, briefly and readably [in Talking Sense About Fifty $hade$ of Grey or, Fanfic, Feminism, and BDSM.]
John writes fanfic, so he has more than a little first-hand experience of a type of fiction whose earliest examples, he suggests, may be deemed to include the fifteenth-century Robert Henryson's continuation of Chaucer’s Troylus and Criseyde and the unauthorised continuation of Don Quixote which was published before Cervantes's own. In addition to a brief history of fanfiction, he also provides short outlines of feminist debates about pornography, and the history of BDSM because, though there
are of course many other things media coverage has ignored or misrepresented, [...] those three aspects – fanfiction in a digital world, the feminist dilemma, and BDSM – are at the heart of the Fifty Shades phenomenon. So it is those three things that I look at in turn to offer some ways of talking sense about E. L. James and her publishing phenomenon. Each part starts with some background and history, to explain the issues that affect Fifty Shades, but comes back to the trilogy in the end.
Given that I know relatively little about these three topics I'm not particularly well placed to evaluate this assessment of Fifty Shades but it seems to me that John succeeds in laying out the reasons why there is
a clear case that James has exploited the work and language of the BDSM community as she has exploited that of the fanfic community, and traduced BDSM as a political cause as she has traduced feminism. It is all very debatable, of course, and depends on what you know and how you see ; but then again, three strikes and you’re out.
I received my copy free from John who kindly sent it in a format I could read. He's self-published it via Amazon, and it's currently available for free for members of Amazon Prime, and otherwise at $3.28 $2.99 at and £2.05 at . For those wondering about the length, in the pdf version I received, the main argument comprised 73 out of 92 pages (the rest are a few introductory pages and plentiful end notes).

Sunday, December 09, 2012

CFPs: Wisdom and Virgins

A Wise Virgin
Love of Wisdom Vs. Wisdom of Love

3rd Comparative Literature Graduate Conference SUNY-BUFFALO, 2013
Insofar as philosophia concerns the “love of wisdom,” the possibilities and limits of wisdom and love call into question the possibility of philosophy. As love and wisdom are consciously and unconsciously unified in the philosophers’ pursuits of wisdom, could the wisdom of love have been supplemented, mixed or misled by the love of wisdom? Does it make philosophy as the result of philosophia problematic?

Fundamentally, this questions how philosophical wisdom negotiates the principles of rationality, sexuality, personality, relationality, pleasure, life stage, and the personal life process as a whole or temporality. Especially, feminist concerns, for example, women as agents instead of sexually desired love objects, have remodeled the above principles and problematized the philosophical relationship with truth built upon individuals and even philosophy’s claim to truth as a genre. Thus, this conference will reexamine how different loves, for example, agápe, éros, philía, and storgē are combined, supplemented, and, in some cases, oppressed, ignored, unarticulated, and even rejected. Furthermore, we’d like to ask how the relationship between love and wisdom is interpreted, (de)constructed, or played differently in western and non-western cultural traditions, for example, yin-yang as a sexualized characteristic of ancient Chinese wisdom.

Could wisdom become the object of love? Could we really pursue the understanding of love? Do wisdom and love share the same myth? Or, do they have to supplement each other? Then, how does truth go with them? By thinking about the relationship between the love of wisdom and the wisdom of love, our conference is hoping to explore a way to revive the relationship between philosophy and life in our contemporary context. 
More details here.
Submission deadline: 1 February 2013.

Virgin Envy: Contemporary Approaches to the Study of Virginity

Eds. Jonathan A. Allan, Cristina Santos, and Adriana Spahr

Contemporary culture has seen a renewed interest in virgins, from Bella Swan and Edward Cullen to Anastasia Steele to Steve Carrell’s infamous 40-old-virgin to the rise of Purity Clubs. How do we understand these discussions and representations of virginity? Do these texts “re-invent” virginity? Or, do these texts merely repeat “standard” treatments of virginity?

This edited volume aims to work through the poetics and politics of virginity in narrative, poetry, cinema, and popular culture. This volume treats virginity as an area of theoretical, intellectual, and cultural concern in modern texts. The goal is to position virginity as an interdisciplinary matter that must be studied from the widest possible range of perspectives. The editors believe that any study of virginity demands and interdisciplinary and/or intercultural perspective precisely because it is inculcated by so many discourses: religious, cultural, psychological, sociological, anthropology, ethnographic, philosophical, etc. The volume will ideally include essays from the humanities and social sciences, but the editors would welcome papers from outside of the humanities and social sciences.

We welcome papers that recognize the complexity and diversity of virginity. We are especially interested in papers that move beyond normative definitions and understandings of virginity:

·      Purity Clubs, Abstinence, and the Silver Ring Thing

·      Celebrity Culture and Virginity

·      Queer Virginities (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, etc.)

·      Male virginities

·      Defining virginity lost (and found)

·      Hymenoplasty, re-virginization, vaginal rejuvenization, medical interventions

·      Cross-cultural analyses of virginity

·      Psychoanalytic, Psychological, Sociological, Philosophical Approaches and the study of Virginity

·      Virginity in Literature, Film, and Popular Culture

·      Virginity and Identity, Identifying as Virgin, Epistemology of the Virgin’s Closet

·      The commodification of virginity, virginity auctions, virginity pornography

·      Virginity and confession, religious contexts, psychotherapeutic contexts

·      Virginity and Romance

Please send abstracts (500 words, including proposed bibliography) and a brief CV  (1-2 pages) by March 1, 2013 to,,

Completed article-length papers (5,000 words, MLA Style) will be due by August 1, 2013. All papers will undergo a peer-review process before final acceptance and publication. 

The image depicts the Fifth Wise Virgin, by Martin Schongauer (c. 1430-1491). I found it at the Web Gallery of Art where it is stated that "Images and documents downloaded from this database can only be used for educational and personal purposes." This is an educational, non-profit purpose.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Sheiking Up Academia

Amy Burge has been
amongst the first to bring together critical work on Middle English romance and modern popular romance. I focus in particular on romances which figure relationships between ‘east’ and ‘west’; Middle English romances with relationships between Saracens and Christians (in particular Bevis of Hampton, Floris and Blancheflur and The King of Tars) and a number of Mills & Boon ‘Modern Romance’ novels featuring sheikh heroes.
What Amy didn't mention when she posted here about the recent publication of her "Do knights still rescue damsels in distress?: Reimagining the medieval in Mills & Boon historical romance," is that she has now received official confirmation that she has been awarded a doctorate and will be graduating in January from the University of York.

I'm sure Christine de Pizan would have been very pleased to welcome you to the City of Ladies.

Congratulations, Amy!

The image of Christine de Pizan came from Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, November 30, 2012

New Book on Women in Historical Fiction

Palgrave Macmillan have recently published a new collection of essays on female-centred historical fiction, The Female Figure in Contemporary Historical Fiction, which includes an essay I wrote on Mills & Boon historical romances set in the Middle Ages: "Do knights still rescue damsels in distress?: Reimagining the medieval in Mills & Boon historical romance".

Based on a conference paper I gave at the Echoes of the Past conference in Newcastle, UK in 2008, the chapter focuses on Mills & Boon's Medieval Lords and Ladies Collection (2007), a set of romance texts which have been discussed elsewhere by myself and others.

In the collection's introduction the editors, Katherine Cooper and Emma Short write:

Not only can these novels be seen, as Amy Burge suggests in Chapter 5 on the Mills and Boon Medieval Romance collection, as crucial tools in understanding the relationship between gender, sexuality and marriage, but these narratives also insert fictional female figures and their desires into circumstances and historical periods from which they have traditionally been erased. [...] both Muller and Burge’s chapters interrogate the popularity of certain periods in history for narratives based around romance or sex, the critical value of these narratives in exploring the gender politics of different periods, and, crucially, what they reveal about the specific moment in which they are written (p. 9).
The fictional female figure explored in this section of the collection therefore becomes, as Burge suggests in her chapter, a way for contemporary women to re-interpret patriarchal practices, and recent historical novels provide just such an opportunity for readers to recognize the sexual ideologies with which they themselves are familiar enacted in historical settings. As Burge  explains, these Mills and Boon novels often go much further than other types of historical  fiction, depicting a particularly fetishized version of medieval sexuality, which allows the modern reader to indulge in fantasies about male domination and female submission that might otherwise be deemed unacceptable (p. 10).
Burge also comments upon the ways in which the past can function as a conservative force, perpetuating and consolidating norms and practices in gender politics which are consistent with the time of writing, or even representing an escape from a present which many see as having been over-complicated by those involved in a backlash against feminism. As such, these portrayals often highlight tensions within existing gender politics through challenging and subverting the conventions that underpin them (p. 10).
 The collection contains other essays on historical fiction, including a chapter on Kate Mosse's Sepulchre, a chapter on Kate Grenville's The Secret River and The Lieutenant Anna Gething, and another on literary representations of Anne Boleyn. The book is available via Amazon and you can read the introduction here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

10th Anniversary News!

Hi, everyone!  Two pieces of news:  one small, one big, and getting bigger!

First, the small stuff:  like other conferences (ACLA, for example), the PCA has been getting a slower and lower response rate than in past years.  As a result, they’ve extended the proposal deadline by one week, to DECEMBER 7, 2012.  If you’re interested, you still have time—and there’s some funding to be applied for, in various categories, which you can learn about here:

The big news is, we’re going to have a special celebratory focus at this year’s PCA—and not just there!

2013 marks the 10th anniversary of Pam Regis’s A Natural History of the Romance Novel, a book that’s been tremendously influential on the current wave of romance scholarship.  In honor of that anniversary, I’m issuing not one but TWO invitations to all of you, and I hope you’ll pass them along.

First, if you’re stuck for a topic for this year’s PCA, consider proposing something about A Natural History!  You could revisit the book on its own, or in its dialogue with other scholarship or theory (Frye, for example), before or since.  If you’ve taught a class or unit using the book or ideas from it, what happened?  How did it go?  Pedagogy always of interest at PCA.

Second, switching hats, I’m also the editor of the Popular Romance Project’s “Talking About Romance” blog:  a site that offers weekly pieces, 500-750 words long, on love and romance in the popular media, now and in the past, from all around the world.  We have readers from well over 100 countries at the moment, and the numbers continue to grow.

In honor of the upcoming anniversary, I want to solicit proposals for one or more blog posts on each of Pam’s “eight elements” that define the romance novel:  the definition of society (always corrupt), the meeting, attraction, barrier, declaration, point of ritual death, etc.  The post should introduce the “element” in question and then talk about a particularly memorable, innovative, subversive, or otherwise innovative use of it in a romance novel or related text.  (I.e., if you want to talk about a romcom film, that’s fine with me, as long as you make the connection to Pam’s work.)  Again, pedagogical pieces are welcome; if you’ve used her discussion of these elements to good effect in the classroom, here’s your chance to share the wealth.

If you’d like to write one of these posts—and I’m open to publishing more than one per element—please contact me at DePaul, via Gmail, or via the Popular Romance Project.  Let me know your interest, your idea (if you already have it in mind), and your sense of when a draft post might be ready for me to look at. 

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Deadlines! Deadlines! Deadlines!

--Eric Selinger

If it's the last week of November, then deadlines must approaching--and, indeed, there are three quite soon that readers of this blog will want to know.

The first is for the Popular Culture Association's annual conference, which will be held next March 27-30 in Washington, D.C.  As you saw in a post a few days ago, the Vampires in Literature and Culture area has caught the romance bug, and they have a CFP on Paranormal Romance.  We at the Romance area, meanwhile, have our usual wide-open CFP--all love!  all romance!  anytime, anywhere, any medium!--and if you're teaching anything related to romance, we may have a special roundtable or panel on romance and pedagogy as well, so get in touch.  Former area chair Sarah Frantz, meanwhile, has doffed her romance  cap and put on...well, I'm not sure where this metaphor goes, but she's leading a new BDSM/Kink/Fetish Studies area, and they've got a CFP as well.

The deadline for all three of those PCA calls is this Friday, November 30, so don't miss out!  Proposals of 200-300 words go through the general PCA portal, here.

The second deadline you need to know is Saturday, December 1.  That's the final day when you can submit a grant proposal for the RWA Academic Research Grant:  up to $5000 USD, as I posted a few days ago.  Full details here.

Finally, I want to call your attention to a Call for Papers right here in my home town, Chicago.  The "Space Between" society, which studies "Literature and Culture, 1914-1945," is having its annual international conference at DePaul University from June 20-22, 2013, and the theme for this year is play, broadly considered.  I'd love to see some romance representation at the conference.  How about some talks on Georgette Heyer, a playful author, surely?  How about romance in P.G. Wodehouse? Anything playful in The Sheik or its reception?  Any parodies out there, or comic revisions?

Plenty of opportunities here for romance scholarship, and it would be a shame to miss them.  (Also, Chicago's a wonderful city in the summer--and the end of June shouldn't be too hot.)

The deadline is Friday, December 7, a week after the PCA one.  There's still plenty of time to work up an abstract of 300 words or less.  For more information, you can see the full CFP here.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Expressing Themselves: Anna Cowan on Sex and Sarah Frantz

Anna Cowan's written a blog post which I found interesting and, since she also quotes from an essay by Sarah Frantz, I thought I'd link to it. Here's a taster:
One of the difficulties in writing sex scenes as a feminist writer is that so much of female desire is learned. What women have learned to be aroused by has traditionally been shaped by male desire.

It’s tricky.

I don’t want to just write my heroines as objects of desire – but just because it’s learned doesn’t make it any less real. In fact, when our learned desires come into conflict with our educated feminist ideas, they can gain a level of taboo that only heightens them.

"Transparent links" was created by Stephen Slade Tien and made available via Wikimedia Commons under a "Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

JPRS CFP in the LA Times

An article published yesterday in the LA Times begins by discussing BDSM at Ivy League universities and then moves on to describe a course Stef Woods will be teaching at American University:
SPRING 2013 
Course Level: Undergraduate
Contemporary American Culture (3)
The 50 Shades Trilogy

The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy is a publishing phenomenon that has dramatically impacted American culture and sexual health. Using the series as a case study, this course examines the interplay of sexuality, health, public relations and marketing. Topics covered include feminism, addiction, social media marketing, sexual expression versus sexual repression, targeting the mom demographic, domestic violence, literary criticism, and relationship and identity forming. The course also relies on academic texts, online resources, lectures, and guest speakers.
The article concludes with details of a recent call for papers from JPRS:
Once completing such a course, students who wish to continue their research could take the next step and write an academic paper. The Journal of Popular Romance Studies has a call for papers for a special issue, "Before and Beyond 50 Shades of Grey: New Approaches to Erotic Romance Fiction." The peer-reviewed journal is looking for "essays, interviews, and pedagogical materials on the subject of erotic popular romance fiction, now and in the past. Essays on individual authors and texts are encouraged, along with work on the business side of the genre — its publishers, its marketing, etc. — and explorations of its reception, including fandom, censorship, and the public debates surrounding erotic romance." Its deadline is Feb. 1, 2013.
With more than 25 million copies of the "50 Shades" trilogy sold, it's only going to find more traction in academia. Maybe E.L. James herself will venture in that direction.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

RWA Research Grant!

--Eric Selinger

Hi, everyone!  A friendly reminder, here, that the application deadline for the Romance Writers of America academic research grant competition is coming up soon:  December 1, to be precise. 

The grant proposal can be for up to $5000 USD, and can be used for a number of things, including summer salary support, buying time to research and write.  

For me, receiving this grant it was a career-changing opportunity—and most departments consider outside funding, in the form of a competitive grant, to be a sign of the importance and significance, not only of your work, but of the field itself. 

Grants have been awarded in literary studies, sociology, translation research, ethnographic work…it’s a nice mix, showing how open the RWA is to new approaches to the genre.

You can find full details of the program here

As I wrote in an article for the Romance Writers Report a year or two ago, I think this program has had a profoundly transformational effect on the study of popular romance fiction, both directly and rippling outward through things like the RomanceScholar listserv, this blog, and ultimately the IASPR / JPRS complex.  You can be a part of that transformation, too!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

CFP: Paranormal Romance

Paranormal Romance (PCA/ACA Washington 2013)

The Vampire in Literature, Culture and Film area of the Popular Culture Association is seeking papers and roundtables for the Joint National Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Conference to be held March 27-30, 2013, at the Wardman Park Marriott in Washington, D.C.

Papers which cover any aspect of Paranormal Romance are sought for presentation. Papers should be limited to a reading time of 15-20 minutes (3 person panels allow for 20 minute papers while 4 person panels allow for 15 minute papers; panels will be formed no later than January 2013 in order to provide panelists ample time to adjust their presentation time).

If you want to form your own panel of 3 or 4 presenters unified around a particular theme or work, please feel free to do so.

Roundtable panels of 3 to 4 presenters (one designated as the moderator) are also sought. You may only present one paper, but you may participate in as many roundtable discussions as are accepted. Roundtable discussions offer panelists 5 to 10 minutes each to informally discuss their subject matter (no reading of papers). The remaining hour is interactive audience participation.

All presenters must be (or become) members of the PCA or ACA and must register for the conference. Membership and registration information will be available upon presentation acceptance.

To have your proposal considered for presentation, please send a 250-350 word abstract by December 7th to the PCA/ACA website. Go to Click on “Area Chairs.” Go to “The Vampire in Literature, Culture and Film” and submit your proposal to the link that says “database.”

Please email Mary Findley at or Phil Simpson at should you have any questions.

JPRS CFP: Teaching and Learning



The journal is now calling for submissions on the theory and practice of teaching and learning in popular romance studies for a regular section in the journal.

The “Teaching and Learning” section of JPRS welcomes theoretical and empirical contributions from all relevant disciplines, as well as interdisciplinary approaches. Possible topics may include, but are not limited to:

Key issues in the teaching and learning of popular romance studies
The research / teaching nexus and popular romance
Curriculum design for teaching popular romance
Practical case studies of teaching key texts and/or topics
Assessment models for teaching popular romance
Teaching and learning popular romance in the digital age
Student responses to studying representations of romantic love
Popular romance fans as teachers and students
Open Education Resources (OER) for teaching popular romance
Postgraduate students and popular romance studies

Articles submitted should be no longer than 10,000 words. Submissions
should be Microsoft Word documents, with citations in MLA format. Do not include your name or the name of any co-authors in the submitted manuscript, since the piece will be sent out for blind peer review. In your cover-letter email, please provide your complete contact information (address, phone number, e-mail address) and a 150-200-word abstract of the submission. You are welcome to suggest appropriate peer reviewers. For further information about the submission process consult the journal (

Please email submissions to the journal’s Editor of Teaching and Learning, Lisa Fletcher (

Monday, November 12, 2012

PhD Students at Work

I'm always keen to hear/read about forthcoming research on romance so I thought I'd mention some work that Jodi McAlister and Jack Elliott have been doing on some of the nuts and bolts of popular romance fiction.

Jodi, who's studying at McQuarie University, has been interviewed by Smart Bitch Sarah:
What I really want to do is work out how virginity functions as a narrative trope in romance, and how this is changed over time. You know those people that pull apart cars for fun to see how they work? I'm like that, but for stories. I guess I'm a narrative mechanic: I love pulling stories to bits to understand how/why/whether they work. I want to work out what function virginity serves as a literary device - how it drives plot, how it drives character, and why it pops up so often in romance in particular. To do this, I'm tracing the history of the virgin heroine in the romance plot - I take a bit of a tour through medieval romance, then through the rise of the novel and its shadowy twin the pornographic novel - before coming back to the modern romance. I'm really interested in what happened once virginity loss scenes started to be regularly represented on the page instead of behind closed doors, something that really kicks off once The Flame and the Flower ( A | BN | K | S | ARe | iB ) is published in the early 1970s. I'm looking at virginity loss scenes and comparing to them to autobiographical stories about virginity loss and seeing how they matched up, as well as trying to tie them back to a historical framework.
Jodi's also written a post for the Popular Romance Project about how Fifty Shades of Grey combines elements from the popular romance with some from "its shadowy twin, the pornographic novel":
it can be argued Anastasia and Christian’s happily-ever-after, if we think of this to mean “enduring long term commitment to each other,” occurs at the beginning of Fifty Shades Darker. And yet the series continues, with a growing emphasis on sex scenes. It would seem that the romance plot is co-opted into the pornographic structure—Christian and Anastasia’s relationship is used to engender the repetitive climaxes on which pornography relies. The romance plot is used to create what Steven Marcus calls pornotopia: a world in social institutions and textual events are used merely to create sex. 
Jack Elliott is studying at the University of Newcastle, Australia and he's also written for the Popular Romance Project. He's been taking a very close look at differences in the language used by European (mostly UK), Antipodean and North American romance authors and has come up with findings such as this: "North American writers prefer 'near' rather than 'close.'" and
look at the striking preoccupation with time in the North American novels! “Forever” and “anymore” are both words favored by North Americans—although the more workaday “afterwards” is not (that’s a European word).
Earlier this year he had a post up about changes in the titles of Harlequin/Mills & Boon romances.
The image, "Power House Mechanic," came from Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain because it was created in 1920/1921 by Lewis Hine.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

K.I.S.S.: That "Culture of Love" Seminar

K.I.S.S.:  Keep It Simple, Stupid.

That's the pop-cult acronym that popped into my head last night as I thought (again) about my upcoming senior capstone seminar.

I've been tying myself in knots with ideas and options for the class:  novels to assign, history and theory and books about love to read, etc.  All of them good ideas, and worth pursuing, but all of them coming at the cost of simplicity.

Behind that flurry of options, I think, lies my own itch to read more widely, both in the genre and outside it, in related secondary material.  Fair enough--and a senior seminar isn't a bad place to get that reading done.

On the other hand, I have another, narrower, more immediate goal for the quarter:  to research and write up an essay on Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Natural Born Charmer, much of it drawing on ideas that I encountered a few years back in a book by Eva Illouz, Consuming the Romantic Utopia: Love and the Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism. (Tip of the hat to An Goris, who suggested I read it!)

The simplest solution--which I thought of weeks ago, then set aside--is to build the course around those two texts, turning it into a sort of scholarly atelier.  I'd balked, on the theory that some students might not like the novel, but whenever I'd tried to decide on another book, I got paralyzed with options; and, frankly, I missed the clarity and sharp focus of a course about a single book.  

So:  one book it is, with some room for students to jump out tangentially into topics of discussion raised by the Illouz book and by the novel (which nods to art history, Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks, the cultures of sports or therapy, and a bunch of other material).

We'll start with a couple of weeks on the Illouz, then read through the Phillips very slowly, 3-4 chapters a week.  Each class on the novel will feature 1-2 student presentations, with a rhythm that looks like this:

M:  Introduction to the Class and to Each Other.  
W:    Illouz, CRU, Introduction; chapters 1-2

M:  CRU:  chapters 3-5
W:  CRU:  chapters 6-8, plus Conclusion

M:  Phillips, NBC, paratext and chapter 1:  2 presentations
W:  NBC, chapters 2-4  2 presentations

M:  follow-up discussion, chapters 1-4 2 presentations
W:  NBC, 5-7  2 presentations

M:  follow-up discussion   1 presentations
W:  NBC, 8-10  2 presentations

M:  follow-up discussion  1 presentations
W:  NBC, 11-14  2 presentations

M:  follow-up discussion  1 presentations
W:  NBC, 15-18  2 presentation

M:  follow-up discussion  1 presentations
W:  NBC, 19-22  2 presentation

M:  follow-up discussion 1 presentations
W:  NBC, 23-epilogue  2 presentation

M:   follow-up discussion  2 presentations
W:  follow-up discussion  

My thought is to have the presentations stay short--say, 500-750 words, like a blog post--and to give the students instructions that look something like this:

If you’re on a day when we’ve read new chapters (generally a Wednesday), your presentation should do three things:  
1. Briefly summarize the important events in the chapter;
2. Call our attention to 1-3 scenes or passages of interest, raising questions about them or illuminating them using ideas, issues, or topics that seem relevant (from Illouz or elsewhere); and,
3. Suggest new avenues of research or inquiry that you or someone else might pursue, whether in a final paper or in a later presentation.  
If you’re presenting on a “follow-up discussion” day, your presentation should do three slightly different things:
1. Situate your remarks as a response to a previous presentation or discussion, either in terms of something that was said or something that was overlooked or left out.
2. Critique or develop that previous material, for example, by following up on a “research lead” someone suggested, by making connections between points made by several people, or by offering your own, well-supported, contrasting arguments.
3. Suggest new avenues of research or inquiry that you or someone else might pursue, whether in a final paper or in a later presentation.  
At the end of the quarter, everyone turns in a final research paper--not sure of the length yet, but something fairly hefty--which could focus on the novel itself or could branch out into some area of research that came up in our discussions throughout the quarter.

Come to think of it, depending on how my own writing progresses, I could also have the class give me feedback on draft material from my essay.  Not sure how useful that would be, or how much I'd have to re-configure the schedule to accommodate that, but it might be worth trying.

In any case, the books are ordered, so we'll see how it goes!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

ENG 232: Final Syllabus

After a lot of dithering (my usual way of thinking things through), I finally chose the books and topics for my popular romance course next quarter.  As you'll see, I'm sticking with the idea of building the course around Laura's book, and since I'm not going up for promotion this year, I hope to have the time to blog about how each segment goes.  I did, though, change the list of novels considerably.  It's not even remotely representative of the genre now--there's only one historical romance, for example, and that one isn't a Regency--but the books all do the three things they need to do:  fit the topics, help me with my research, and teach well, year after year.

Now to choose the books for course #2, the Love Seminar!  (Hint:  I think I'm going to take the easy way out, whatever that turns out to be....)  

Schedule Of Classes, Topics, And Readings

Topic 1:  What is a “Romance”?  A “Romance Novel”?  A “Popular Romance Novel”?

M:  Introduction to the Class and to each other.  Introduction to “romance,” the “romance novel,” the “popular romance novel” and the “Harlequin Romance” as critical and historical categories.
W:    Vivanco, Introduction and Chapter 1 (“Mimetic Modes”) of For Love and Money

MUnsung Hero:  chapters 1-10 (feel free to read ahead)
W:  Unsung Hero:  the rest of it!

Topic 2:  Twice-Told Tales: Romance, Myth, and Fairy Tale

M:  Vivanco, Chapter 2 (“Mythoi”)
W:    Bet Me 

M:  Bet Me

Topic 3:  My Metafictional Romance

W:  Vivanco, Chapter 3 (“Metafiction”)

M:  Natural Born Charmer
W:  Natural Born Charmer

Topic 4:  My Metaphorical Romance

M:  Vivanco, Chapter 4 (“Metaphors”) and Conclusion
W:  Homecoming

M:  Homecoming

Topic 5:  Lore, Deportment, and Problem Fiction: Thinking in Romance

W:  Thomas Roberts, An Aesthetics of Junk Fiction, chapter 7 (“Thinking with Tired Brains”) and chapter 8 (“Reading in a System”); Catherine Roach, “Getting a Good Man to Love:  Romance Fiction and the Problem of Patriarchy."

M:  False Colors 
W:  False Colors

M:  False Colors

Topic 6:  (Psst!  Isn’t It Really Just “Porn for Women”?)

W:  Ann Barr Snitow, “Mass Market Romance: Pornography for Women is Different”; assorted readings on Fifty Shades of Grey (to be chosen later)

M:   Start Me Up
WStart Me Up

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

CFP: Positioning Love and Affect (ACLA)

Jonathan A. Allan
Following up on earlier CFPs, here is a "theory" CFP dealing with love and affect (American Comparative Literature Association's annual meeting at the University of Toronto, April 4-7, 2013). 
This seminar positions what Anna Jónasdóttrir has termed “love studies” in relation to “the affective turn,” and asks how such a conjunction illuminates and possibly repositions both areas of study.  Affect theory has concentrated on certain emotions and affects, particularly its negative, or “ugly” ones; a focused analysis of “love,” in particular, has seemingly been avoided.  How might attention to love help us to rethink affect studies?  For instance, is love an affect, or an emotion, a feeling, a mood?  Does love function as affective labour, an energy, a force?  How might love undo private/public and personal/political oppositions?  Meanwhile, love, within critical theory, is often contained as an opiate, a harmful ideology, a “cruel optimism,” or as a sentimental, naïve and non-academic subject. 
This panel follows “love studies” in its consideration of love as a serious, important area of academic study, while not precluding a playful or performative approach to the subject.  It encourages examinations of love as a “positive,” or “productive” force, and seeks to consider love itself – romantic, erotic, compassionate love, etc., human and non-human forms of love – without displacing love in favour of other terms, like “care.”  We are also interested in how subjects and objects are “positioned” in relation to love;  eg. who or what is allowed to be a subject/object of love?  Is love temporally or geographically limited/translatable? 
Papers from a variety of theoretical perspectives (psychoanalytic, queer, feminist, etc.) are welcomed, as long as they engage with intersections between “love studies” and the “affective turn.
For more information, including how to submit an abstract (due November 15, 2012):

Monday, November 05, 2012


EUPOP 2013

EUPOP 2013 – PCA Europe Annual Conference
University of Turku
31 July – 2 August 2013
CFP Deadline: 29 March 2013

Individual paper and panel contributions are invited for the second yearly international conference of the European Popular Culture Association (EPCA), organised with the Popular Culture Association Finland (PCA-Finland) and the International Institute for Popular Culture, IIPC.

EUPOP 2013 will explore European popular culture in all its different forms. This could include European Film (past and present), Television, Music, Celebrity, The Body, Fashion, New Media, Comics, Popular Literature, Sport, Heritage and Curation.

The special streams will include themes such as Sport, Obesity, Violence, Spirituality, Technology and Transatlantic Cultural Interaction in the popular culture context.

Closing date for this call is 29 March 2013. There will be opportunities for networking, publishing and developing caucus groups within the EPCA. Presenters at EUPOP 2013 will be encouraged to develop their papers for publication in a number of Intellect journals, including the Journal of European Popular Culture, the journal of the EPCA. Journal editors will be working closely with strand convenors – a full list of Intellect journals is available at: Papers and Complete Panels for all strands should be submitted to the email contact below.

Paper/panel submissions will be subject to peer review. Submit paper or panel proposals to: (the same address should be used for general administrative queries).

Keynote speakers to be confirmed.

CFP: Indian Conference on Romance

Romantically Inclined: Romance in Literature, Film and Popular Culture

St. Stephen's College, Delhi
23rd, 24th, 25th February, 2013
St. Stephen’s College, Delhi invites papers for its annual international conference-festival on Romance in literature, film and popular culture. Verse and prose sagas of adventure and love in literatures across the world bear testimony to the earliest literary inclination to Romance. Such as the tradition of the Hindavi Romance narratives in the sub-continent that grew out of Sanskrit and Persian to combine rasa and Sufi allegories in Padmavat and Madhumalti. One strain of the continental Romance evolved with Spenser, withstood the satire of Cervantes and the radical departures of the romantics to become the counterpoint to the realist novel. The Romance has given into new genres such as magic realism and fantasy fiction, but continues as an enduring literary style in contemporary world literatures. The secret to the survival of Romance in literature and popular cultures may be that it is highly adaptive and popular in appeal. It embraces, in a broad accommodating sweep, literature and art with all the gravity of the canon as well as the pulp excluded from it. We seek the romantically inclined to explore the breadth of Romance – as a literary mode and as a cultural leitmotif in performative and representative arts. As a conference-festival, we welcome academic papers, presentations as well as music and performance art proposals that appraise the value of Romance.

The conference dates are 23rd, 24th, 25th February, 2013. Please send a 300 hundred word abstract to by December 10th 2012.

The scope of papers and performance concept may include but are not confined to the following:
  • Mythology and History as proportions of Romance
  • Realism, Anti-Romance: A Rose is Just a Rose
  • Romance of the High Seas
  • Melodrama in Romance as a challenge to modernity
  • Romance as Nostalgia
  • Cinematic Romance
  • Musical Romance
  • Romantically Ink/lined: Intersecting Art and Literature
  • Popular Romance: Pot-Boiler Love
  • Rethinking Romance as Genre
  • Romance and the philosophical bait
  • Creatures of Romance

CFP: Australian Conference on Romantic Love

November 2013
Venue, Australian National University, Canberra

The deadline for abstracts (max 250 words) is March 8, 2013
Why has the message of romantic love successfully saturated our culture? As Lauren Berlant puts it, without knowing how it has happened, love has become a ‘core feeling of being and life, a primary feeling of sociality’ (2000, p. 436). Love is now considered the major existential goal of our times, capable of providing us with a sense of worth and a way of being in the world (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim, 1995, pp. 193-94). According to Eva Illouz, love is glorified as a supreme value capable of delivering happiness - a ‘collective utopia’ (1997, p. 7). Narratives of romantic love, from the poems of the Troubadours to Romeo and Juliet, are associated with individual liberty and equality, personal freedom and satisfaction, and with its radical opposition to conventional social structures.  For this reason romantic love, from the very beginning, was considered a dangerous idea; its connection with individual agency, its disconnection from family, class, social and religious duty, its association with free love and sexual freedom, made it a threat not only to life-long monogamous marriage and traditional family structures but also to divisions based on class, religion and race. Indeed Anthony Giddens refers to romantic love as ‘intrinsically subversive’ (Giddens, 1992, p. 46).  Romantic love is now thought capable of removing social barriers, of delivering individual agency and even social progress. Nowhere has this discourse been more visible in contemporary political debate in Australia than in the same-sex marriage debate where love is the constant cry against the ban on same-sex marriage.
But is love the radical and progressive idea it claims to be? The progressive nature of love is contested by some feminist and queer critiques, which claim that love replicates traditional and oppressive relationships based on sex, gender and sexuality.  Papers are sought for a two day inter-disciplinary conference aimed at interrogating the idea of romantic love as a radical political, social and cultural ideal. Love is an important topic not only for scholars of gender but also of politics, sociology and culture more broadly. This conference will present a rare opportunity for a small group of scholars to share their work, discover synergies and to develop networks for future research collaborations. Selected papers will be collected for an edited collection.
Possible themes are:
• The relationship between romantic love and the institution of marriage
• The concept of love in the same-sex marriage debate
• ‘Love marriage’ as a means of rebellion in subaltern cultures
• Cross-cultural understandings of love
• Feminist, queer and socialist critiques of romantic love
• Love, state and legislation
• Love and disciplinarity in the humanities and social sciences
• Romantic love in entertainment and the ‘culture industry’
Abstracts to be sent to the convenors of the conference:
Dr Renata Grossi
Freilich Foundation, Research School of Humanities and the Arts
Sir Roland Wilson Building 120
Australian National University
ACT 0200 Australia
T:+ 61 (02) 6125 5527
Associate Professor David West
School of Politics and International Relations
Research School of Social Sciences
Building 24,   Copland Bldg
Australian National University
ACT 0200 Australia
T: +61 (02) 6125 4256

Thursday, November 01, 2012

All I've Taught So Far...

--Eric Selinger

All this talk of a romance canon--"Canon to the left of us! / Canon to the right of us!"--has me thinking, rather wistfully, about just how few romance novels I've actually taught so far.  Since I'm one of the luckiest folks in the business, with plenty of course opportunities, I should have done more, and writing up the list has been a little embarrassing.  Still, for what it's worth, here it is, organized two ways:

  • First, a list of the "background" novels I teach (1919-1972), followed by an alphabetical list of romance novelists and novels that I've taught from the 1980s onward.  I haven't put in dates, in the interests of time, but honestly, though, there aren't many from the 1980s.  When I teach chronological courses, I tend to focus the 1980s on romance criticism, and then teach novels that in some way respond to that critical discourse about the genre.  So it's really a list from the 1990s onward, as you'll see if you check them out.
  • Second, a list of the same novels and novelists, categorized in some well-known subgenres.  When a novel fits into more than one category, I've put it in both; I've left out categories like "metatextual romance" and "highly allusive romance" and "explicitly feminist romance," although I sometimes think in those terms.  A few times I've put "sort of" after a novel, to indicate that it "sort of" fits into that category, but there's another one in the list where it fits better.
If you're one of my students, and you don't see a book that we read, let me know and I'll add it!  I tried to be complete, but when a book was presented by a student but not read by everyone--or when I supervised an independent study, but didn't teach the book myself--I left it off.

Romance Novels Eric Has Taught (So Far)

Background for the Genre (pre-1980s), More or Less Chronologically Organized
E. M. Hull, The Sheik
Georgette Heyer, Devil’s Cub, The Grand Sophy
Mary Stewart, Madam, Will You Talk
Victoria Holt, Mistress of Mellyn
Kathleen Woodiwiss, The Flame and the Flower

More Recent Books (1980s-present)
Mary Balogh, Slightly Dangerous 
Alex Beecroft, False Colors
Sarah Bird, The Boyfriend School
Gwyneth Bolton, Sweet Sensation 
Suzanne Brockmann, Unsung Hero
Loretta Chase, Lord of Scoundrels, Mr. Impossible
Kresley Cole, A Hunger Like No Other
Jennifer Crusie, Manhunting, Anyone But You, Crazy for You, Welcome to Temptation, Fast Women, Bet Me
Victoria Dahl, Talk Me Down, Start Me Up, Real Men Will
Ann Herendeen, Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander
Joey Hill, Natural Law
Emma Holly, Hunting Midnight
Linda Howard, Mr. Perfect
Eloisa James, The Duke is Mine
Beverly Jenkins, Something Like Love, Topaz, Captured
Laura Kinsale, Prince of Midnight, Flowers from the Storm
Karyn Langhorne, A Personal Matter
Beth Patillo, Heavens to Betsy
Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Natural Born Charmer
Julia Quinn, The Viscount Who Loved Me
Francine Rivers, Redeeming Love
Nora Roberts, Irish Thoroughbred, Irish Rose, Midnight Bayou, Montana Sky 
Nell Stark, Homecoming
J. R. Ward, Dark Lover


African American Romance
Gwyneth Bolton, Sweet Sensation 
Beverly Jenkins, Something Like Love, Topaz, Captured
Karyn Langhorne, A Personal Matter
“Blockbuster Historical Romance” (1970s-80s)
Kathleen Woodiwiss, The Flame and the Flower

Category Romance
Nora Roberts, Irish Thoroughbred, Irish Rose
Jennifer Crusie, Manhunting, Anyone But You 

Christian / Inspirational Romance
Beth Patillo, Heavens to Betsy
Francine Rivers, Redeeming Love

Contemporary Romance
Sarah Bird, The Boyfriend School
Gwyneth Bolton, Sweet Sensation 
Suzanne Brockmann, Unsung Hero
Jennifer Crusie, Manhunting, Anyone But YouCrazy for You, Welcome to Temptation, Fast Women, Bet Me
Victoria Dahl, Talk Me Down, Start Me UpReal Men Will
Joey Hill, Natural Law
Linda Howard, Mr. Perfect
Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Natural Born Charmer
Nora Roberts, Irish Thoroughbred, Irish Rose, Midnight Bayou, Montana Sky 
Nell Stark, Homecoming

Erotic Romance
Joey Hill, Natural Law (BDSM, femdom, m/f)
Emma Holly, Hunting Midnight (paranormal)

Gothic Romance
Victoria Holt, Mistress of Mellyn
Nora Roberts, Midnight Bayou (sort of)

Historical Romance
Georgette Heyer, Devil’s CubThe Grand Sophy
Kathleen Woodiwiss, The Flame and the Flower
Mary Balogh, Slightly Dangerous
Alex Beecroft, False Colors
Loretta Chase, Lord of ScoundrelsMr. Impossible
Ann Herendeen, Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander
Eloisa James, The Duke is Mine
Beverly Jenkins, Something Like Love, Topaz, Captured
Laura Kinsale, Prince of MidnightFlowers from the Storm
Julia Quinn, The Viscount Who Loved Me
Francine Rivers, Redeeming Love

Interracial Romance
Karyn Langhorne, A Personal Matter (Black / White)
Nell Stark, Homecoming (Asian / White, but it’s not a central plot element)

LGBTQ Romance
Alex Beecroft, False Colors (m/m)
Ann Herendeen, Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander (bisexual, m/m/f)
Nell Stark, Homecoming (f/f)

Military Romance
Suzanne Brockmann, Unsung Hero

Paranormal Romance
Kresley Cole, A Hunger Like No Other
Emma Holly, Hunting Midnight
J. R. Ward, Dark Lover

Romantic Suspense
Mary Stewart, Madam, Will You Talk
Linda Howard, Mr. Perfect
Nora Roberts, Midnight Bayou (sort of?)
Joey Hill, Natural Law (sort of)

Sheikh Romance
E. M. Hull, The Sheik