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Marija Dalbello Reading Interests of Adults Romance fiction

Image credit: Victor GAD. Marija Dalbello Reading Interests of Adults Romance fiction. Rutgers School of Communication and Information dalbello@rutgers.edu. Overview _______________________________________ Introduction What is a Romance? Genre characteristics and appeal

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Marija Dalbello Reading Interests of Adults Romance fiction

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  1. Image credit: Victor GAD Marija Dalbello Reading Interests of Adults Romance fiction Rutgers School of Communication and Informationdalbello@rutgers.edu

  2. Overview • _______________________________________ • Introduction • What is a Romance? • Genre characteristics and appeal • “The Formula” • Romance controversy • Romance champions • Romance detractors • The Realists • In the literary marketplace • History and types of romance • Conclusion

  3. What is a romance • Definition _______________________________________ • The main plot of a romance novel must revolve around the two people as they develop romantic love for each other and work to build a relationship together. Both the conflict and the climax of the novel should be directly related to that core theme of developing a romantic relationship, although the novel can also contain subplots that do not specifically relate to the main characters' romantic love. Furthermore, a romance novel must have an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending." • Romance Writers of America at: http://rwanational.org

  4. What is a romance? _______________________________________ • Romance scholarship • A woman’s genre • Primary audience are women • Writers are women (mostly) • In focus for feminist critics • Genre conventions • Constitutive:Happily Ever After (HEA) • Regulative: Alpha Male Hero - the tallest man in the book, the one with the darkest hair and the bluest eyes), Plain but Spunky Heroine • Recurring stereotypes: the Rape Scene

  5. What is a romance • Female fantasy? _______________________________________ • Escapist fantasy in which a “heroine gentles a warrior” (his battleground can be anywhere from the boardroom to the bedroom to the sites of historic wars) and the two live happily ever after. (Krentz) • It is a “literature of optimism in which the woman (almost) always wins” (Krentz) • “I still choose to enjoy the fact that, somewhere, a warrior is being tamed by an angel” (Kelly Kimbrough, a romance reader (from Tixier Herald, p. 201) • OR …

  6. What is a romance • Patriarchal nightmare?_______________________________________ • Venue for celebrating and maintaining the patriarchal domination over female desire • Representations that enforce passivity and promote a submissive and externally-controlled view of female desire • Coping mechanism (escapist literature) • Displacement of a deep need for nurturing that isn’t satisfied in the context of heterosexual marriage - unfulfilled women’s oedipal desire (nurturing man as displacement of desire for an absent nurturing mother)? (Radway 14-15)

  7. Genre characteristics and appeal • What readers like _______________________________________ • The woman is the lead character • The woman is a strong character • The man surrenders to the woman • The reader needs validation of her beliefs • The reader wants a predictable pleasure • The reader needs her own space

  8. Genre characteristics and appeal • What writers think _______________________________________ • Readers distinguish fantasy and reality • Female empowerment at the center • Subversion of patriarchy - women exert power over men • Integration of male and female in psychological terms • Celebration of life • Character identification rich and complex • Story-line rich and complex: heroine vanquishes villain in the hero without destroying the hero

  9. Genre characteristics and appeal • What kind of literacy _______________________________________ • Personal kind of reading - “sincerity” of writing part of appeal • For avid readers HEA is constitutive element • For readers looking for the romantic story but do not require HEA - romantic tragedy can be romance • Reader’s advisory requires tact and diplomacy to determine the kind of fantasy reader responds to (reader looks for a particular era, setting, degree of sexiness, overall tone) • Readers are not passive but active constructors of texts - discriminating between the “failed” and the “ideal” romance

  10. Genre characteristics and appeal • What kind of literacy _______________________________________ • Coded language of covers • Coded language of discourse • Purple prose conceals a wealth of information about the characters and situations • Iconography of covers presents a rich story of the history of romance genre • Pay attention to imprints and labeling - they determine content

  11. FORMULA I Berger Download from course shell - Doc sharing

  12. FORMULA II Wendell & Tan Download from course shell - Doc sharing

  13. Romance controversy • Romance detractors • _______________________________________ • Literary theorists • Dismissal of genre as non-literature • Elitist • Feminists • Romance reading seen as maintaining status quo of the patriarchal marriage and power relations • False consciousness • Politicized reading of texts; ideological disagreement with texts • Tania Modleski (1982), Kay Mussell (1984) • Romances are not helping readers change their life • Romances are over-consoling • Romances are addictive (repetitive reading)

  14. Romance controversy • Romance champions • _______________________________________ • Feminist backlash • Critique of feminist interpretations (Jayne Ann Krentz 1992) • Readers confirm relevance of genre through consumption, individual taste for particular fantasy • Romance is fantasy - complexity of appeal • Romances maintain powerful myths

  15. Romance controversy • The Realists (Controversy moderators) • _______________________________________ • Act of reading as “declaration of independence” (one thing a woman does for herself) • Reading as resistance to publisher-imposed formula through selection as a form of critical reading • Reading as integrated in everyday life and as intervention in the life of actual social subjects • Janice Radway study (1984; 1991) validates romance reading without moralizing it

  16. Romance fiction In the literary marketplace • _______________________________________ • Publishing programmed for a mass-market • Semi-programmed publishing initiated by Harlequin through market research, branding and product placement (1970s) • Romances have a global appeal, phenomenal sales (Harlequin Enterprises sales in hundreds of millions worldwide, published in over 100 international markets and translated into twenty languages

  17. Mills & Boon

  18. Harlequin Enterprise

  19. Harlequin at 60 “A look back at Harlequin’s six decades offers a social history of love. The first pregnancy storyline arrived in the 1960s; the late ‘70s saw a surge of sexual content; Fabio debuted during the excessive 1980s.”

  20. Programming the covers Click on icon to watch video

  21. Historical development _______________________________________ • Precursors and foundational works • Novels of sensibility - Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740) • Domestic fiction, woman’s fiction - 1820-1870 • Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813) • Gothic romances • Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca (1938) steady-seller (1960s) • Georgette Heyer’s Regency historicals from 1930s • Gothic romances boom - (1960s - 1970s) • Consolidation and modernization of the industry (1970s-1980) • Sweet savage romance novels defining genre • 1972: Kathleen Woodiwiss, The Flame and the Flower; • 1974: Rosemary Rogers, Sweet Savage Love • Diversity and continuous popularity of romances • 1990s introduction of varied female characters, multicultural romance • New lines addressing the feminist critiques of the genre • New audiences and niche markets

  22. Types of romance • _______________________________________ • Contemporary • Womanly romance • Soap opera • Fantasies of Passion • Contemporary Soap Opera • Traditional Womanly Romance • Contemporary Mainstream Womanly Romances • Glitz and Glamour • Contemporary Romance • Historical • Frontier and Western Romance • Native American • Scotland • Regency (England) • Inspirational Historical Romance • Saga • Hot Historicals • Sweet-and-Savage • Spicy

  23. Types of romance • _______________________________________ • Romantic-Suspense • Contemporary Romantic Suspense • Historical Romantic Suspense • Fantasy / Science Fiction Romantic-Suspense • Gothic • Fantasy and Science Fiction Romance • Fantasy • Time Travel • Paranormal Beings • Futuristic/Science Fiction • Ethnic Romance

  24. Conclusion • _______________________________________ • The meaning of romances constructed by readers, writers, critics • Fantasy of female power or patriarchal domination? • Mass-publishing and marketing phenomenon • Genre of female identification

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