Saturday, 22 March 2008

I'm starting to realize that there is a lot more out there than I thought.

Today I began exploring Romance Wiki which is an online resource, best as I can understand, the documents different trends in the Romance Genre- authors, books, academic happenings, and other stuff. It has some great links, which I'm still delving into, but it's got me excited because I'm beginning to realize that there is a lot more academic research out on Romance novels than I thought. The killer is, part of me wants to go out and read some of the books that people are mentioning that I haven't read (and boy, do I feel like my head is under a rock, because a lot of these authors are fairly well known, and I just haven't gotten around to reading them), and the other part wants me to go on inter-library loan and get out all the different academic articles I can get my hands on. I think I'm going to have to get a really big binder, so I can print things off and put a list of what I have in the beginning, so I do go repeating stuff.

5 comments:

Laura Vivanco said...

The Romance Wiki "belongs" to Kassia Krozser, but just as with Wikipedia, anyone with an interest can post to it. Kassia suggested, on the Romance Scholar listserv, that the Romance Wiki would be a good place to create a bibliography, because then various people could add to it. So that's what we've been doing, and if you come across any items we've not yet included, please do feel free to add them.

The romance scholarship section is only a very tiny part of the Romance Wiki. The rest of the Wiki has lots and lots of information about authors, novels and other romance-related topics (e.g. publishers, RWA, RNA).

the other part wants me to go on inter-library loan and get out all the different academic articles I can get my hands on

I'll apologise in advance in case this comes across as bossy or interfering, rather than helpful, but have you thought of a topic for your research paper yet? It's just that the bibliography, as you say, is massive, and it would take a very long time to get hold of and then read everything on it. I certainly haven't read more than a tiny portion of the items on it, and I've been working on the genre for over two years now. So I'm thinking that given that you've got a limited time period in which to write the research paper, maybe it would help narrow things down a bit if you thought of a topic first and then looked for the items on the bibliography which seem most relevant?

Obviously there are some items on there which are so well-known it's best to try and get hold of them (Radway's book, though Radway was taking a sociological approach to investigate romance readers rather than using literary criticism to analyse the novels themselves, Pamela Regis' book on the structure of romance novels, the Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women volume and a few others) but some of the items on the bibliography (including Radway's) are quite old, and given the rapid pace of change in the genre they may not be very relevant to what you're interested in. Also, some of the earlier scholars of the genre (including Radway) could make some very negative comments about the genre, so although they might be useful starting points if you're looking for something to refute, they're possibly rather less useful if you're looking for romance-friendly analysis.

Although they're blog posts rather than full-blown journal articles, the work we've been doing at Teach Me Tonight is generally positive (though not uncritical) about the genre, and you might find some discussions there help to kickstart some ideas. There are also some posts which describe some of the items on the bibliography, so that could help you get a feel for which books/articles might be helpful to you.

JC said...

You're right about there being much too much about the romance genre than I can get through in a semester, or even a summer and a semester. And I do have a focus, it's just not well articulated right now.

The research is actually divided into three parts... one for a small research paper I'm doing this semester on the subjugation of males in Louisa May Alcott's Thrillers, and, depending on how much I can milk out of that subject, it might broaden into gender reversal in the thrillers as a Gothic device.

The second thing I need to do is create some sort of syllabus for my independent study, and Ideally I would like to structure it like a class, where I read a book and perhaps some academic articles each week for the first half of the class, and all that will lead to the second half of the class where I write my research paper.

Both the small research paper and the creation of the syllabus is intended (hopefully) to begin as prep for the independent study next semester. Ideally, I want to do the different types of male archetypes in romance, but I think even that would be much to broad. (That might end up as a possible dissertation topic, with a lot of refinement... providing I get through undergraduate work in one piece) So I might narrow it down to male archetypes in paranormal romance, or category romance (which might still be too broad) or another sub-genre of romance.

I have a bit of time to figure out the second half of what I want to do. Right now I'm mining other professor's course outlines to see what they deem as important (with an eye to the fact that the focus of their class is probably going to be different than mine). Also, I'm trying to see if there are any academic articles that will help me develop a vocabulary for what I want to say and do.

I have found Radway's book (and skimmed through it, but not read it simply because right now I have a full course load and I have to give priority to them.) I've also found Reading the Romance and another book my professor lent me... the name escapes me now. I think these will be valuable tools. However, I think you are right... Radway's book is looking into sociology, which while helpful is not really what I'm looking for. I found Regis' book online, but we don't have it in our library, so it's one of the ones I want to Interlibrary loan.

I plan to read through some of the backpostage of Teach Me Tonight (if not all of the backpostage), but again, I haven't been able to have the time to get around to it yet, because of my course-load.


Let me just say I appreciate your input SO much. Davidson College is great, but none of the English Professors have made romance novels their specialty. The Professor who is guiding me, Annie Ingram, specialty is 19th century Sentimental Fiction. This helps, because I'm finding that there are many crossovers in Romance and Sentimental Novels. However, any additional help that people are willing to give me is MORE than welcome.

So, thank you very much. Hopefully I will be able to articulate the direction of my research project in a post soon. And thank you so much for your help!

Laura Vivanco said...

The Professor who is guiding me, Annie Ingram, specialty is 19th century Sentimental Fiction. This helps, because I'm finding that there are many crossovers in Romance and Sentimental Novels. However, any additional help that people are willing to give me is MORE than welcome.

OK, I won't feel bad about offering suggestions. I'll throw out a few more ideas for you, then.

I remember we had a very brief discussion about sentimental novels at TMT after I'd posted about Augusta Jane Evans's St Elmo (and the discussion continued in the comments attached to my second post about St Elmo.

So although I don't know much about sentimental novels, making comparisons between the two might be a way to approach the genre, particularly given that one can get quite an old-fashioned feel from some romances due to the emphasis of female purity (lots of virgins), rakes in need of redemption, suffering heroines. Would that be one way to get at some of the gender stuff you're interested in?

Deborah Lutz has written about The Dangerous Lover; Gothic Villains, Byronism, and the Nineteenth-Century Seduction Narrative (some excerpts and links here) and she mentions that "In her study of early romance genres (from 1674 to 1740), Ros Ballaster creates two categories of use here: didactic love fiction and amatory fiction."

Are the gothic and the sentimental romances respectively amatory and didactic fiction? Can one find parallels in the modern romance genre? And to what extent are depictions of gender affected by religion? I've had a quick skim of Laura Clawson's 2005 article: “Cowboys and Schoolteachers: Gender in Romance Novels, Christian and Secular.” Sociological Perspectives, Volume 48, Issue 4, pages 459-477. (pdf here) and it looks interesting.

I don't know if any of that appeals to you, but I thought it worth mentioning since you might have support/done reading already in those areas.

I might narrow it down to male archetypes in paranormal romance, or category romance (which might still be too broad) or another sub-genre of romance.

I think those would still be vast areas to cover. There are just so many books published each year that it's very hard to even cover one category line, never mind all of them! At least, that's my experience. I tried writing a paper on just two Harlequin lines, and read about 60 novels in each line (published over roughly an 8 year period), and then quoted from about 15 I think in each line).

If you wanted to compare constructs of masculinity across a few category romance lines, one things that's helpful is that you can get a very rough feel for each line by looking at the guidelines for them, which are listed on eHarlequin. Even so, though, there are significant differences between books within a single line, so pinning down the differences can be very tricky.

Not that I want to put you off at all, just saying that it would be easy to get a bit overwhelmed by the number of primary texts available.

One other way of approaching romances is just to choose a few that interest you and take them as central texts, from which you pick out elements which you can relate back to a wider discussion of gender and/or the genre's history. In other words, rather than trying to say something about the entire genre, or even an entire sub-genre, you could analyse a smaller number of texts and show how they differ from each other, and suggest that this demonstrates the diversity of the genre, or similarities which cross sub-genre boundaries, or whatever it is that you find. Those texts could perhaps be chosen because they'd won a RITA, or because they were by well-known authors, or on a list of recommended romances, or just because they're ones you've already read and which you know have a lot of material that you could work with.

That sort of approach might work quite well with the way you're thinking of working:

Ideally I would like to structure it like a class, where I read a book and perhaps some academic articles each week for the first half of the class, and all that will lead to the second half of the class where I write my research paper.

You could take one romance novel and an academic book/article related to some of the issues you know are in that romance, and then you could see what ideas that sparks, and whether what's in the novel matches up with what's said in the academic work or not.

Laura Vivanco said...

I've just thought of another set of criteria for choosing which books to study. If you choose books by an author who's written quite a bit of secondary material about her work (whether it's on a blog, or in the Dangerous Men collection or somewhere else, that might be helpful in terms of giving you a handle on how the author herself thinks about her work. Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick has a lot to say about alpha males and there's other stuff in that volume about the hero as villain. Jennifer Crusie, on the other hand, says that:

Early romances often cast the hero and heroine as antagonists, the I-hate-you-I-hate-you-I-love you story. As the genre grew more sophisticated, this plot began to look as dumb as it sounds. It also makes for weak plots: since a strong conflict ends in a fight to the death (literally or psychologically), casting your hero and heroine as opposite numbers makes it almost impossible to achieve a satisfying ending. Either they compromise to save the relationship, leaving the book with a fizzle of a climax, or one destroys the other, leaving the relationship in a shambles. It is possible to make this latter plot work if the destruction creates a phoenix-like transformation in the one who's destroyed, but it's extremely hard to bring off in a genre that's already difficult to write.

Another good source of essays written by romance authors is North American Romance Writers, ed. Kay Mussell and Johanna Tuñón (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1999).

And it might be that some authors have changed their depictions of gender since they wrote these things. Or it could be that if they write in different sub-genres, that affects the way they depict gender roles. Or it might not, of course, which in itself would be interesting. Again, those could be criteria for choosing (even if the author hasn't written any essays/posts about her work) - you could choose authors who've been writing a long time and see what's changed over the decade(s) and/or you could look at authors who've written in multiple sub-genres.

An Goris said...

I'm coming over from the listserv and taking a peek here. I'm a graduate student myself and just wanted to wish you the best of luck with your research. There's a very supporting community of fellow romance scholars out there (I see you've already met Laura, one of our most appreciated members) so if you have any questions don't hesitate to post them on the listserv. Best of luck!
An

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