Sunday, May 28, 2017

Food for Thought: Romance Readers More Moral, a Philosophical Romance and more

According to some new research on popular fiction
the more Romance [...] authors participants recognized, the fewer morally dubious [...] scenarios they believed permissible [...]. In fact, once Moral Purity concerns - a measure of the importance people place on purity or sanctity when making moral decisions - was controlled for, Romance was the only variable besides Science Fiction that was clearly related to Moral judgment.(22)
The authors do note that "the correlational nature of this study limits any causal inference: it could [...] be the case that when it comes to choosing novels, people pick stories that will enforce their existing beliefs and desires" (23) but perhaps
reading romance novels, in which clearly identified heroes and heroines achieve an "optimistic, emotionally satisfying" ending [...], may encourage readers to view the world in black and white terms. That romance novels tend to end with a "happily ever after" may be particularly relevant given prior research showing a relationship between fiction exposure and Just World beliefs. (24)
The paper by Jessica E. Black, Stephanie C. Capps and Jennifer L. Barnes can be found here. Please note, though that this is a pre-print version and the final version of "Fiction, Genre Exposure, and Moral Reality" may differ a little from the version in Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts.

Sydney E. Thorp, an Honours Philosophy student at Hamline University, has written their honours project in the form of a romance novella, complete with a central love story and happy ending. The protagonists do briefly discuss popular romance fiction, too: Eva, our philosopher heroine, comments
"You want another example of how women and romantic love are easily dismissed?" Ava asked, frustrated. "Two words: romance novels. Even though the romance novel industry is an enormous, billion-dollar-a-year industry, almost entirely dominated by women - female authors, editors, publishers, et cetera - no one takes romance novels seriously as a genre of fiction. And why? Most likely, because it is connected with women." (15)
 The story
follows two people as they try to determine what romantic love is, and why it was a neglected or minimized philosophical object for centuries. As the characters converse, they develop the concept of philosophy described above, discuss the place of women, passion, and reason in philosophy, and determine – to the extent they are able – that romantic love is something people do, rather than a feeling or state of being, and is based on an unjustifiable attraction to another person and Aristotle's concept of friendship, specifically philia.

The idea of romantic love being a practice, rather than an emotion or a state of being, seems to be uncommon in philosophical work on the topic. It seems just as rare, especially historically, to think of romantic love as being between equals, who mutually care for each other and commit equally to the relationship.
You can read the abstract and download the whole of Entangled: Romantic Love and Philosophy as a pdf from here.

Still on the topic of love, Olivia Waite argues that, in romance novels, love isn't "a prize you earn for doing everything correctly" but, rather, "It would be far more accurate to say not that romance novel characters are looking to get love, but that love is looking to get them" and that, in terms of the plot and what the characters are hoping to achieve, "The real villain of any romance novel is love itself."

[Photo by Wolfgang Moroder and taken from Wikimedia Commons. It is not in the public domain.]


What's food for love? Food! At least according to Jennifer Crusie, who argues that:

1) "The kind of food makes a difference because it characterizes the people eating it."

2) "food doesn’t just build romances, it builds all relationships."

3) "The person who controls the table, controls the interaction."

4) "food also says a lot about place."

In the context of "place," another reminder that the next IASPR conference is all about place:
Space, place, and romantic love are intimately entwined. Popular culture depicts particular locations and environments as “romantic”; romantic fantasies can be “escapist” or involve the “boy / girl / beloved next door”; and romantic relationships play out in a complex mix of physical and virtual settings.
We’ve pushed the due date for IASPR conference proposals back by two weeks, to September 15, 2017. The conference will be in beautiful Sydney, Australia, just a 15 minute walk from the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge; it runs from June 27-29, 2018. The full CFP is here. Please feel free to repost and distribute it!

Still on academic matters Amy Burge has written about the status of the "independent scholar" and I've been thinking about some gaps in the history of popular romance.

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