Academic conference & romance

After so many years in academia and dozens of conferences, finally there’s one I would have liked to go to, but missed. There’s an article on the Huffington Post about a conference at Princeton in which the topic of discussion was the current state of the romance genre.

According to the article, Professor Sally Goede talked about  the Into the Wilderness series. This is fantastic of course, and I’m very pleased. I wish they hadn’t misspelled Sara’s name in the article, but hey.

The really amusing thing here is that academic annual conferences — the MLA, for example — is a hotbed for romance of all kinds. Except the fictional.

An excerpt from Rendell’s piece for the HuffPo:

Romances offer very different things to very different readers, therefore, and to lump the genre and its audience together is short-sighted – and problematic. This point was driven home to me during Professor Emily Haddad’s paper about the depiction of the Middle East in romances featuring sheikhs. Haddad drew on Edward Said’s theory of Orientalism which describes the way the West constructs and “others” the East through its writings and discourses. For too long, romance has been the “East” and “other” of the literary world: talked about in generalities, pigeonholed, and not understood for its nuances and variety.

I may not have gotten my answer for why romance is selling so well in our troubled times, but the Princeton conference taught me that to rush to conclusions about romance fiction is to flatten out a rich, varied, and continually evolving genre. In the end, though, I did conclude one thing. People read and enjoy romance just as people deal with hard economic times: differently.

2 Replies to “Academic conference & romance”

  1. Thanks for the link to that article, it was interesting. I do like that quote from Jennifer Crusie about romances offering an emotionally just landscape although I do also think its more than that. Its also relatively safe, I think. You know that you can invest yourself in these characters and in the end, it’ll work out. You know that whatever the ride is, whatever happens to these characters, everything will work out in the end. And at this time in my life, that’s a real comfort. Well, maybe that’s just how I feel and could explain why I can’t ever read Cold Mountain, knowing what I know about the end. I have a lot of trouble with romances that don’t follow the cardinal rule of the “emotionally just landscape” or optimistic ending.

  2. Great article. I always like when people take a more objective stance for the popularity of romance novels and don’t just assume the stereotypes are true.

    Now if we can just get to the point where saying to someone that you read romances doesn’t get this look of disdain (especially in the academic world)….
    … I usually end up saying “historical fiction” or “historical romances.” Although authors like Jennifer Crusie and Nora Roberts obviously don’t fall into these categories.

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