Thinking about Romance

For a very long time fiction that is marketed as ‘romance’ has been the butt of the joke. While this is still the case — few people will admit in public to reading romance novels for fear of being dismissed as frivolous twits  — the last fifteen years has seen a steady trend toward more thoughtful discussion.

Case in point: Laura Vivanco’s For Love and Money: The Literary Art of the Harlequin Mills & Boon Romance. This book came out in 2011, but I just got around to reading it, and I wanted to mention it in case anybody who stops by here is curious about scholarship focused on romance fiction.  It’s not light reading, but it is a thoughtful look at romance fiction in the greater scheme of literature over time.   The focus is on books published by a  particular UK publisher (Harlequin Mill & Boon) but Vivanco’s analysis has far broader implications.

As a university professor my area of expertise was not literature; I’m an academic linguist by training, and for me writing fiction began as an avocation and morphed into something else.  But an academic is an academic, and now I’m interested so  I just joined the Romance Scholar listserve. I don’t plan on launching yet another career, please understand. I’ll sit in the corner and listen.

A long time ago — maybe as much as ten years — somebody sent me a paper she had given at an academic conference on romance fiction. The paper was about Into the Wilderness, which shocked and, truth be told, delighted me. Unfortunately just after I received it I had a computer disaster and I lost both the paper and the information on who sent it to me, so I never had a chance to talk to her about it or even thank her. If she happens to see this, I hope she’ll get back in touch.