Wednesday, September 26, 2012

IASPR Conference in York - Live

The IASPR conference began this morning in York. There's live-tweeting going on and you can download a pdf of Dr Nick Redfern's paper, "The romance film at the box office in five European countries, 2006 to 2010" from his blog. His
results show that romance films account for only a small proportion of the films to reach the top 50 highest grossing films, and that there is no statistically significant variation in the proportion of romance films among the highest grossing films in each country. However, few romance films achieve a high box office ranking in more than one of these countries, indicating a lack of commonality across different markets with different audiences watching different romance films. Romance films achieving top 50 rankings in Germany, Spain, and the UK originate almost exclusively from outside these countries, whereas domestically produced films account for a larger proportion of romance films in France and Italy. Romance films perform consistently at the box office in three of the five countries, albeit lacking the very high grosses achieved by action/adventure, family, and fantasy/science fictions films; while this genre performs particularly poorly in Italy and Spain.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Out Now: My Essay on Feminism and Romance

I'm delighted to be able to announce that, at long last, "Feminism and Early Twenty-First Century Harlequin Mills & Boon Romances," an article which began its life as a paper given at the 20th annual Feminist & Women’s Studies Association (UK & Ireland) Conference in 2007, has been published in the Journal of Popular Culture. You can read the first page here and I discuss it in a little bit more detail at my blog.

And while I'm on the topic of feminism and romance, I'd like to take the opportunity to mention Jackie C. Horne's new blog: Romance Novels for Feminists. Here's her post explaining who she is and why she's writing about romances and feminism.
Vivanco, Laura. "Feminism and Early Twenty-First Century Harlequin Mills & Boon Romances." Journal of Popular Culture 45.5 (2012): 1060–1089.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Goris, Genre and Gender

On the 24th of November An Goris will be in Birmingham (UK) giving a talk at the second workshop organised by the interdisciplinary Genre Studies Network. This workshop is focused on genre, gender and identity.

The Network is
funded by AHRC [and] organised by Dr Natasha Rulyova, the University of Birmingham in cooperation with Dr Garin Dowd, the University of West London, UK.
The more information humans have to deal with on a daily basis and the faster they have to do it, the stronger their need is for effective means of ordering information. Genre as taxonomy fulfils this human need. Genre is used to structure information, to create meaning, and to make sense of reality. These are only a few of the many questions that the genre studies network will address:
  •  How do people arrive at their judgement about the genre of the text?
  •  What is the relationship between the medium and genre, the canon and genre, the author and genre?
  •  Is the development of genres a function of technological development or a result of aesthetic judgement?
  •  How do genres travel across historical, cultural and linguistic boundaries? How do they help and impede human communication?
  •  What correlations have been asserted between genre and gender?
The dates, topics and locations of the workshops are as follows:
  • Workshop one (6 October 2012, University of Birmingham): Genre: theory, methodology and practice

  • Workshop two (24 November 2012, University of Birmingham): Genre, gender and identity 

  • Workshop three (10 December 2012, University of Birmingham): Genre and new technologies

  • Workshop four (23 February 2013, University of Leeds): Genre in translation: crossing cultural, linguistic, disciplinary, media and other boundaries

  • Workshop five (29 April 2013, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham): Genre and canons of representation

  • Workshop six (10 June 2013, Waterstone’s Piccadilly, London). Communicating Genre: the author, the text and the audience 
All workshops are open to everyone and are free but places are limited. If you are interested in attending please email the organiser, Natasha Rulyova, at

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Reading and Puzzle-Solving

A Disentanglement Puzzle
Over at OnFiction Raymond A. Mar reports on some new research about reading:
We all know people who are heavily influenced by whatever they happen to be reading or watching, crying at the drop of a hat. On the other hand, there are those who seem to have no difficulty withdrawing from a narrative world, seemingly unfazed by sad films and scary books. One interesting avenue of work has found that those who are intrigued by puzzles and enjoy complicated problem-solving--a trait known as “need for cognition”--are also more likely to be deeply engaged with a story. [...] In other words, the complexities of a narrative appear to be just another puzzle that some people enjoy unlocking.
Raymond's got more details in his post.

The photo is the work of Matěj Baťha who made it available via Wikimedia Commons with a Creative Commons licence.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Gobsmacked by Google

I've always been very happy to read long excerpts from other people's works so this isn't a complaint, but I am a little bit stunned by the size of the preview of For Love and Money which has been made available by Google Books; it seems to be over a fifth of the total. Presumably when it's your own work you have a better impression of quite how long the excerpt is relative to the total.

If you haven't read For Love and Money but would be interested in seeing the introduction and an explanation of how romance novels can be written in a variety of literary modes, you can now do so for free.

While I'm on the topic of Google Books, I may as well mention that page 352 of the tenth edition of A Glossary of Literary Terms includes the following about romance novels:
The history and analysis of this novelistic form has increasingly become the subject of scholarly investigation; it now has its own literary periodical, the Journal of Popular Romance Studies, begun in 2010. Refer to Carol Thurston, The Romance Revolution (1987); and Pamela Regis, A Natural History of the Romance Novel (2003).
I'm pleased to see that JPRS is beginning to beginning to be more widely known and I'm also pleased (and very intrigued) by the fact that the Glossary has chosen to highlight Pam Regis and Carol Thurston's studies of the romance. I wonder if we can take it as a sign that at long last Janice Radway's Reading the Romance has lost its preeminent position.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Joint Conference: Curtin University and the Romance Writers of Australia

The Elizabeth Jolley Conference 2013

Reading and Writing Romance in the 21st Century

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Esplanade Hotel, Fremantle, Western Australia

Here are some details from the Romance Writers of Australia:
In 2013, Curtin University, in association with Romance Writers of Australia presents the inaugural Elizabeth Jolley Conference, Reading and Writing Romance in the 21st Century, a one-day academic conference on romance writing. The conference is presented as part of the Romance Writers of Australia 22nd Annual Conference to be held on August 16-18, 2013.

Of interest to academics, students and scholars of romance writing, as well as romance writers and readers, the conference will explore critical understandings of romance writing and the cultural significance of romance writing and its audiences.
The keynote speaker is Professor Imelda Whelehan. The call for papers is as follows:
….there is no one representative romance novel. (Bly, 2010 p61)

The meaning of ‘romance fiction’ in the twenty first century has become complex, diverse and wide-ranging. At a time when the future of books, reading and fiction are hotly debated topics, the many sub-genres of romance (and romance-driven general fiction) continue to be bestsellers. In light of its continued popularity, as well as increasing academic and critical attention, it is timely to consider how our understandings of romance fiction have changed. So too, we might consider the way in which the constitution, demands and desires of its audience has shifted. For, just as there is more than one type of romance, it is becoming clear that there is more than one type of romance reader.

This conference invites papers that explore the notion of reading and writing romance in the twenty first century. Whilst the genre of contemporary romance fiction is the main focus, we also welcome contributions that situate romance fiction in its historical context, or explore its place in mainstream and literary fiction. We particularly welcome papers that focus on Australian authors and audiences.

Among the questions the conference seeks to ask are: Has the increased connectivity and social networking enabled by the internet and e-publishing helped bring romance fiction into the mainstream? Or have its readers just become more vocal, connected and better able to share their passion? How well does contemporary romance fiction reflect shifts in relationships, marriage and sexuality? Is romance fiction bound to reflect normative social narratives, or can it offer more challenging representations of gender, race, sexuality and class? To what extent does contemporary romance fiction reflect key socio-political concerns such as indigenous issues, ethnicity, multiculturalism or Pacific Rim relations?

Suggested topics include (but are not limited to):

•    Explorations of the contemporary audiences for contemporary romance fiction
•    Beyond the pseudonym: who is writing romance fiction today?
•    The relation and position of fanfiction in the genre
•    The impact of e-publishing and social networking on romance fiction writers and readers
•    Changes to the marketing, packaging and branding of contemporary romance fiction
•    The demographic  breakdown of romance fiction readers and writers
•    The impact of e-readers on the public/private impacts of reading romance fiction
•    Explorations of genre boundaries: the relation of romance fiction to women’s fiction,  chick lit and other genres
•    Cross-genre pollination: the impact of paranormal romance on the genre and its readership
•    The relation of romance fiction to mainstream and literary fiction
•    Analyses of contemporary romance fiction covers and cover art
•    Explorations of the ideal romance fiction reader
•    Explorations of romance fiction sub-genres such as historical romance, medical, gothic, paranormal romance

Abstracts of no more than 300 words are due by January 11th 2013 [...] Successful submissions will be invited to submit full papers for consideration for publication in a special issue of The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture (full papers due June 2013).

Full details here. If you'd like to stay informed about the conference, you can subscribe to the Elizabeth Jolley Conference blog.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Monsoon Mystery: Harlequin/Mills & Boon's First Indian Author

According to the Deccan Chronicle,
Shoma Narayanan is the first Indian author to become part of the Harlequin Mills & Boon banner, with her maiden novel Monsoon Wedding Fever. [...] Leaving a cushy financial background for the creative life of a writer has been quite a leap for Shoma. “I was a little apprehensive initially, but I had decided to follow my dream — which is to write,” she explains. Her novel, which is set in India, is quite contemporary. “I had to keep in mind what would sell with the global audience, which is why I decided to set the plot in India,” she says.
In an interview with The Awesome Sisters she explained how she came to be published:
I saw an ad at Crossword that said Mills and Boon was ‘auditioning’ for Indian authors – I went home and wrote a short story for them, and submitted it. My story went on to become one of the three shortlisted winners of the ‘Passions’ contest, and I was assigned an editor in the UK with whom I began working on the final novel. It was only when I’d almost finished the novel that Anna (my editor) told me that my book was going to be a global release – if Anna hadn’t been safely tucked away in a different continent, I’d have run across and hugged her – even over the phone, it took her around ten minutes to get me to calm down!
You can read an excerpt of Monsoon Wedding Fever here.

Unfortunately I can't work out when Monsoon Wedding Fever is going to be published or whether, in fact, it's already been published. I've managed to track down an image of the UK Mills & Boon cover and according to the details at The Book Depository this edition was published on 1 August 2012. Amazon UK shows the same cover, gives a publication date of 3 August 2012, but lists the book as "not yet released." The RIVA line's recently been reorganised and I can't find any details about the book on Mills & Boon's website.

The Harlequin edition is also something of a mystery. has it listed as due for publication on 30 October 2012 but it doesn't seem to be listed at Harlequin's website in the list of October novels in the Romance line.

Can anyone clear up the mystery? I hope so, because having seen the excerpt I'd like to read the rest. Or, given earlier discussions about cover art and the representation of non-white protagonists, does anyone fancy giving me their opinion of the covers?

Rajagopal, Srinidhi. "Romancing the Quill." Deccan Chronicle. July 27, 2012.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Sarah Speaks: BDSM, Romance, and Fifty Shades

Sarah Frantz was quoted yesterday in the Ventury County Star. Speaking about Fifty Shades of Grey, she states that
"The sex is compelling. Sex is always compelling. But the 18th-century scholar in me says nothing (E.L. James) has done is new, apart from having 20,000 fan fiction followers ready to buy the book the instant it was available," said Sarah Frantz, president of the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance and an associate professor of literature at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina.

"She is using many of the conventions and tropes of romantic fiction, including the Byronic hero who has committed nameless crimes in the past who will be cured by the love of a good woman," Frantz added.

Frantz spoke on the topic during a Romance Writers of America Passionate Ink gathering in Anaheim in July. The full-length version of her presentation, "The History of BDSM Fiction and Romance," will be included in "Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades," slated for publication in November.

The term is an acronym for bondage-discipline/dominance-submission/sadism-masochism, themes that James delves into in the "Fifty Shades" trilogy — albeit inaccurately, Frantz said.
"Reading along, you very much get the feeling that the BDSM elements are there to titillate the reader, but that Christian ultimately will be 'cured' of the need to have them in his life, as though they are by definition 'bad,'" she said.
Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey will be published by BenBella Books and is edited by Lori Perkins.