Tuesday, June 26, 2012

CFP: 20th-Century British Popular Print Culture

Via the Middlebrow Network:
A message from Kate Macdonald: If you work on 20thC British popular print culture, in any form, and would like to discuss writing a chapter on your special subject for a forthcoming OUP collection of essays, with final text due in late 2013, please email kate.macdonald@ugent.be
I contacted Dr Macdonald and she told me that she doesn't yet have anyone volunteering a popular romance chapter; she'd be interested in hearing about one.

Romance at EUPOP

'Love in the European Union' by Starscream from Wikimedia Commons
Next month, I will be participating in a panel at the Inaugural Conference of the European Popular Culture Association. I’m really excited to get involved with the Association and also to hear some of the papers in my panel and in others. If you’re in or around London between the 11th and 13th July why not come along and hear some papers for yourself? I will undoubtedly be tweeting some of the conference and will endeavour to publish a write-up on my blog, so if you can’t make it and are interested hopefully my commentary will be useful.

Here are the details of the romance panel:

Current Perspectives in European Popular Romance

Popular romance is one of the most popular fiction genres in Europe, and one of the most widespread. Harlequin/Mills & Boon, the world’s largest romance publisher, annually sells millions of popular romance novels all over Europe. In response to this, there has been an emergence of academic work on the popular romance in Europe, led by a conference in Brussels in 2010 and a conference to be held in York in September 2012. The popular romance area at the 2012 EUPOP conference will consist of a wide-ranging, transnational panel which together feature some of the foremost European scholars of the genre. Co-chaired by Amy Burge (Conference Chair, “The Pleasures of Romance”, York 2012) and An Goris (Managing Editor, Journal of Popular Romance Studies), this panel explores several topics that are currently of particular interest in the rapidly developing field of popular romance studies.

The panel brings together four papers which each explore a different aspect of romance in Europe. Two papers focus on various aspects of the cultural and linguistic translation of popular romances, dynamics that lie at the heart of the popular romance genre in the multilingual European context. The two further papers find romance in unexpected places and find the unexpected in romance. Via discussions of the relation between Britain and Arabia in British sheik romances and of the underexplored romance in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards, this panel probes the notion of subversion in the context of both the literary and the filmic romance genre. Together, these papers seek not only to link these current issues, but also to indicate the vibrancy of current romance scholarship in the field of European popular culture.

From Local to Global: Reading Category Romance in Europe
An Goris, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium.

The romance novel is one of the most popular genres in Europe, led by Harlequin/Mills & Boon, the genre’s most eminent publisher. This paper argues that Harlequin’s noteworthy cross-cultural appeal is based on its simultaneous use of both localizing and globalizing strategies to achieve success in the culturally, linguistically and nationally diversified European market. 

Breaking the Rules: Translating Emotions in European Popular Romance
Artemis Lamprinou, University of Surrey, United Kingdom.

Emotions form an indispensable part of popular romance narratives. In the context of the translated romance texts that are predominant on the European market, this paper argues that in translated romances it is not simply the author’s but also the translator’s responsibility to optimize the reader’s experience of the emotions in the text. This argument is developed on the basis of extensive case studies of Greek translated romances.

A Very English Place: The Intimate Relationship Between Britain and Arabia in the Contemporary Sheikh Romance
Amy Burge, University of York, UK.

The fantasy settings of contemporary sheikh romances seem to serve their function as ‘otherworlds’ in which the romantic relationship between western heroine and sheikh hero takes place. However, this paper, through an examination of the setting, content and authorship of twentieth and twenty-first century sheikh romances, contends that far from being geographically indistinct, sheikh romances remain deeply rooted within British imperial interests. 

Ethical Responses, the Film Motif, and Gender: Romance in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds
Tom Ue, University College London, United Kingdom.

“Maybe they’ll make a film about your exploits,” Shosanna tells Fredrick in response to his story about killing many Russians. Fredrick replies: “Well, that’s just what Joseph Goebbels thought.  So he did and called it ‘Nation’s Pride.’” Using this conversation from the film Inglourious Basterds as a starting point, this paper traces some of Tarantino’s many nods to romances to show how he undermines and contests our understanding of the genre as a whole. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Online Romance Writing Courses from McDaniel College

McDaniel College is fielding a new five-course sequence in Romance Writing, to begin this fall. Each course lasts eight weeks, and is online, asynchronous (anyone, anywhere with an internet connection can do course work at any time), focused on romance writing, and taught by Jennifer Cruise, MFA, New York Times best selling author. The program is the first of its kind.

These graduate-level courses are for new and experienced writers who have a bachelor’s degree.

The five courses lead students through an examination of the craft of romance writing—with a focus on character as it informs and builds story. Students develop a proposal—a synopsis, 30 polished pages, and a query letter—for an original, novel-length romance.

The first course, Reading the Romance (3 credit hours), guides you through an analysis of the craft elements in novels by respected romance writers:

Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Heaven, Texas. 1995.
Nora Roberts. Montana Sky. 1996.
Loretta Chase. Lord of Scoundrels. 1995.
Beverly Jenkins. Indigo. 1996.
Jennifer Crusie, Anne Stuart, and Lani Diane Rich. Dogs and Goddesses. 2009.
Melissa Marr. Wicked Lovely. 2007.
Patricia Gaffney. The Saving Graces. 1999.
Barbara O’Neal. How to Bake a Perfect Life. 2010.

Your guides to craft will be Francine Prose, Reading Like a Writer, and Robert McKee, Story, as well as Jennifer Crusie and/or Pam Regis, who will occasionally teach the first course.

It begins on August 27. Register beginning July 1 but before July 28.

In the next four courses (each 3 credits), Jennifer Crusie provides one-on-one feedback:


you will focus on writing
Writing the Romance Novel I
Writing the Romance Novel II
Romance Writing Workshop
the proposal package

Development costs were funded by a generous gift by the Nora Roberts Foundation.

Credit hours transfer into a McDaniel Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) degree. Cost: $1,290 per course.

Learn more details

For those of you who have heard of Jennifer Crusie's involvement with The Writewell Academy and are wondering if there's a difference between the courses on offer there and at McDaniel College, we explain the Writewell/McDaniel relationship in this way:
Although the information from Writewell will be part of the McDaniel program, it will not be in the same form. Writewell is baseline level introduction to creative writing, consisting of just the lectures and support materials. Writewell's creators don't read anybody's work for Writewell. McDaniel's program is a full blown, hands on creative writing program, workshops, critiques, etc. Professor Crusie does read and offer critique. She says, "It's the difference between a really good bicycle and a Mercedes."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Napkin that Changed the World

Today the Popular Romance Project has an interview up with Eric and Sarah, in which they mention the napkin which started a whole new field of academic study. Romance scholarship, of course, not napkin-folding.

And Laurie Kahn has a few questions:
For those of you who are romance readers and writers, have you spoken with any of these scholars? What do you think of their attempts to look at popular romance seriously?
For those of you who are scholars, what kinds of research are you doing? Has IASPR made a difference in your life?

The first image came from Wikimedia Commons (via the Deutsche Fotothek of the Saxon State Library (SLUB) as part of a cooperation project). It shows "Technik des Serviettenfaltens - Die X. Figur" and I can't resist including another of the illustrations from the same book:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Quick Quotes: Amira Jarmakani on the Desert Romance

Amira Jarmakani's "Desiring the Big Bad Blade: Racing the Sheikh in Desert Romances." American Quarterly 63.4 (2011): 895-928 was published in December and it mentions one of Amy's posts on sheikh romances (published here, at Teach Me Tonight, in August 2011). Here's the abstract for Jarmakani's article:
Through a consideration of desert romances (mass-market romances whose hero is a sultan, sheikh, or desert prince), this essay argues that the racialization of Arabs and Muslims in contemporary popular culture operates by conflating ethnicity, religion, geography, and the notion of civilization. As the racialization of actual Arabs and Muslims in the global North has become more overt, the representational racialization of sheikhs in desert romances has become more covert. Ironically, precisely because romance novels must protect the fantasy narrative by submerging any overt references to race, they are useful for exploring the shifting meanings of race vis-à-vis Arabs and Muslims. 
And here's a quote:
the conflation of dark and dangerous, signifying a conflation of race and violence, in the sheikh’s eroticized sexuality functions according to longstanding U.S. racial logics that simultaneously uphold and disavow the links between race and sexuality.
To some extent, these links can be seen in the romance genre as a whole. This is not to say that there is a plethora of nonwhite heroes in mass-market romances; in fact, a common complaint among romance readers is the lack of “minorities” in romance and, in particular, of multiracial romances. However,  [...] authors sometimes use exotic tropes to give the hero his hard edges. In constructing the figure of the Latin lover, for instance, authors can mobilize mainstream assumptions about machismo to signify alpha maleness. In Native American heroes, romance authors can mobilize the fierce warrior stereotype to make him alpha and draw on typical “noble savage” associations to craft his sensitive side for the heroine.
Desert romances fall roughly into this group of exoticized romance heroes, a group that notably excludes the black hero. [...] The persistence of what seems to be a separate but equal clause in mass-market romances speaks powerfully to both the unspoken presence of racial ideologies in the romance genre and the lingering potency of stereotypes about violent black masculinity. The balance between fantasy and reality that romance authors must strike manifests tellingly when it comes to race; nonwhite characters are either segregated or contained through various devices, while race appears in phantasmic ways. More often than not, authors use the “chromatic associations” of darkness and blackness in describing racially white heroes, thereby incorporating metaphors that are deeply embedded in racial logics of the global North. (896)

The image of " 'Saladin rex Aegypti' from a 15th century manuscript" came from Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Brushing Aside Criticism

When one's a reader of a type of fiction about which sweeping negative generalisations are made, it can feel satisfying to respond with equally sweeping but positive generalisations. Some of those negative generalisations probably do deserve to be consigned to the dustbin of history. Others, though, contain rather more than a grain of truth and so, having recently come across a number of freshly written critiques of romance, I felt it was appropriate to share them here.

The first is Amanda Joyal's M.A. thesis, "From Victorian Literature to the Romance Novel: Disability and the Courtship Plot," which comes complete with its own counter-example. It
is largely concerned with popular romance novels as a site of criticism for disability because of its widespread popularity and locates Victorian fiction such as Jane Eyre and Olive as the predecessors of modern romance novels. Stereotypes of disability that pervade Victorian literature tend to be present in the modern romance; characters desire cures for their disabilities and operate as pitiable figures within the courtship plot. I analyze the ways in which the disabled protagonists of Yours Until Dawn, Stranger in Town, and Annie's Song must be rehabilitated by their partners in order to be a viable participant in the courtship plot. For male characters, this involves reclamation of their masculinity in order to compensate for the feminization of their disability. Disabled female characters seem to have very little involvement in their own rehabilitation and instead rely on their male partners. In contrast, the heroine of Mouth to Mouth needs no rehabilitation in order to be seen as a sexual partner. Laurel represents a unique case that disability scholars should pay more critical attention to.
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any more detail about the thesis, other than that it was completed in 2012 at the University of Wyoming.
The second is by Cora Buhlert, who takes a closer look at the defence of romances which is based on the idea that they're "expressions of women's fantasies":
E.L. James [...] said [...] that the [Fifty Shades] trilogy is fantasy and portrays the sort of fantasy that people would not necessarily want in real life. We’ve heard this sort of explanation before as an apologia for the rapetastic bodicerippers of the 1970s and 1980s or for the continuing popularity of romances featuring ultra-possessive alpha males. And I cannot discount these explanations, because people have wildly different fantasies, as is their good right. But nonetheless, whenever I read another apologia that a book/film/series with stone age gender relations is just an expressions of women’s fantasies of ceding control, because they have to be so strong in real life all the time, I inevitably shake my head and think, “Whose fantasy exactly? Cause it sure as hell ain’t mine.”

I guess the main problem here is that a lot of what is considered romantic and swoonworthy in the Anglo-American part of the world, not just doesn’t do a thing for me, I actively dislike it. And I only wrote Anglo-American, because E.L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, is British. But mainly, books like Fifty Shades of Grey or Harlequin Presents (which have several British authors as well) or the rapetastic bodicerippers of yesteryear are an American phenomenon and reflect the conflicted American attitudes about sexuality, namely that the only way a woman is allowed to enjoy sex without being labeled a slut is if she’s forced into it by an overpowering man. The old bodiceripper style romances were never as popular in Europe (including the UK) as in the US and most European readers I have spoken to actively hated them.
The third is from acrackedmoon at Requires Only That You Hate. The language is strong and I'm sure we could all think of romances which would serve as counter-examples. That doesn't invalidate her critique though: if anything, her "hatred and geekrage" seems to me to demonstrate the extent of the pain which romances can cause some people:
I don’t know about other queer women, but to me the prevalence of romance–not as a genre by itself, but romance as a pop-culture entity–fucked me up pretty severely [...] if you’re telling me that romance is categorically feminist, you’re contributing to this large damage in an insidious, silencing way. The proponents of romance-is-feminist school of thought like to pass such fiction off as inherently progressive because it is written mostly by women and targets women as an audience: it pushes the idea that reading these books is liberating and sex-positive and, what’s more, reading them is good for you. Because feminism! Liberation from the yoke of repression and sexual dissatisfaction!

Tell me this and I’ll kick you in the fucking teeth.

Yes, romance presents possibilities: as long as those possibilities involve finding a man. Yes, romance explores and depicts female desire: as long as that is a desire to have a cock shoved into your orifices. Yes, romance is about the “everywoman” whom we can all identify with as long as you can identify with a straight white woman from the first world. It reinforces the hegemony of what is normal, and what’s normal is straight sex, straight female desire, centering your life around the fantasy man, and being culturally rooted in the west. Romance enforces the hegemony of ethnocentricism, heteronormativity, and cultural imperialism. It’s not the only thing that does this: so does SFF, so does every other form of popular media.
Acrackedmoon is aware of the existence of lesbian and m/m romance; there are romances about people other than straight white women from the first world. Just, not a lot of them. Taken as a whole, popular romance fiction does marginalise certain kinds of stories and certain kinds of protagonists.

The image of various broom heads comes from Wikimedia Commons. It was originally published in the Dictionnaire encyclopédique de l'épicerie et des industries annexes (1904).

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

JPRS CFPs: Erotic Romance, Latin American Popular Culture, Animals, Heyer, and Religion

The Journal of Popular Romance Studies has put out three updated calls for papers: see the sections on the JPRS website about "animals in popular romance" (new deadline October 1, 2012); Georgette Heyer (new deadline October 1, 2012); and "love and religion in global popular culture" (new deadline December 1, 2012).

There are also two new CFPs for JPRS, one on "erotic romance fiction" and the other on "romantic love in Latin American popular culture":
Before and Beyond Fifty Shades of Grey: New Approaches to Erotic Romance Fiction
Since the 1970s, both the content and the institutional practices surrounding erotic romance fiction have been transformed. The remarkable popularity of E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has brought a number of those transformations to light, not just in terms of the novels’ BDSM-inflected sexual content (old news in the romance world) but also in their publishing history, moving from online Twilight fan-fiction to e-book format to paperback bestsellers.

Yet the world of erotic romance fiction extends far beyond Fifty Shades—not just historically and aesthetically, but geographically, racially, and in the range of sexual identities and practices made visible by these texts. The range of critical and scholarly approaches to these texts ought to be equally various, whether looking back to foundational essays like Ann Barr Snitow’s “Mass-Market Romance: Pornography for Women is Different” or drawing on the latest in queer theory and cultural studies.

To that end, the Journal of Popular Romance Studies 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. All theoretical approaches are welcome. Submissions are due by February 1, 2013, and this special issue of JPRS will be published in December, 2013.

More details here

Romantic Love in Latin American Popular Culture
The Journal of Popular Romance Studies is looking for essays, interviews, and pedagogical materials on romantic love in Latin American popular culture, for a special issue guest-edited by David William Foster (Arizona State University), to be published in September, 2013. The deadline for submissions is January 7, 2013.

How have Latin American film, fiction, poetry, popular music, TV, and other media represented romantic love, now and in the past? How do these representations compare across national, cultural, and regional divides, and how have they been deployed in the service of nationalism and / or political change? How does romantic love intersect with evolving ideas of gender and sexuality, and with the eroticization of the Latin American body (e.g., the “Latin lover”) in other parts of the world? How do Latin American popular texts eroticize the Other—Indigenous, African, Asian, European—in their own right? How do high-art traditions like love poetry—by Pablo Neruda, Gabriela Mistral, Julia de Burgos, Delmira Agustini, and others—function as popular culture in Latin America, and what happens when they are taken up outside of literary and academic circles?

Essays on broad cultural trends are welcome, as well as in-depth work on individual songs, films, novels, telenovelas, and other popular texts. Essays dealing with LGBTQ issues are particularly encouraged. Papers should be written in English and translations provided alongside the original text.

More details here.