New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction

Critical Essays

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About the Book

Despite the prejudices of critics, popular romance fiction remains a complex, dynamic genre. It consistently maintains the largest market share in the American publishing industry, even as it welcomes new subgenres like queer and BDSM romance. Digital publishing originated in erotic romance, and savvy online communities have exploded myths about the genre’s readership. Romance scholarship now reflects this diversity, transformed by interdisciplinary scrutiny, new critical approaches, and an unprecedented international dialogue between authors, scholars, and fans. These eighteen essays investigate individual romance novels, authors, and websites, rethink the genre’s history, and explore its interplay of convention and originality. By offering new twists in enduring debates, this collection inspires further inquiry into the emerging field of popular romance studies.

About the Author(s)

Sarah S.G. Frantz, associate professor of English at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina, is president of the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance and the author of articles on Jane Austen, J.R. Ward, Suzanne Brockmann, and contemporary popular romance fiction.
Eric Murphy Selinger is executive editor of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies and associate professor of English at DePaul University, where he teaches courses dedicated exclusively to popular romance fiction. He is the author or co-editor of several books and is a regular contributor to Parnassus: Poetry in Review.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Sarah S.G. Frantz and Eric Murphy Selinger
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 275
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4190-7
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8967-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vi
Introduction: New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction
—ERIC MURPHY SELINGER AND SARAH S.G. FRANTZ      1

Part One: Close Reading the Romance
1. “Bertrice teaches you about history, and you don’t even mind!”: History and Revisionist Historiography in Bertrice Small’s The Kadin
—HSU- MING TEO      21
2. How to Read a Romance Novel (and Fall in Love with Popular Romance)
—ERIC MURPHY SELINGER      33
3. “How we love is our soul”: Joey W. Hill’s BDSM Romance Holding the Cards
—SARAH S.G. FRANTZ      47
4. On Popular Romance, J.R. Ward, and the Limits of Genre Study
—MARY BLY      60

Part Two: Convention and Originality
5. Loving by the Book: Voice and Romance Authorship
—AN GORIS      73
6. The “Managing Female” in the Novels of Georgette Heyer
—K. ELIZABETH SPILLMAN      84
7. One Ring to Bind Them: Ring Symbolism in Popular Romance Fiction
—LAURA VIVANCO      99
8. The More the Merrier? Transformations of the Love Triangle Across the Romance
—CAROLE VELDMAN- GENZ      108
9. “Why would any woman want to read such stories?”: The Distinctions Between Genre Romances and Slash Fiction
—DEBORAH KAPLAN      121

Part Three: Love and Strife
10. Borderlands of Desire: Captivity, Romance, and the Revolutionary Power of Love
—ROBIN HARDERS      133
11. Patriotism, Passion, and PTSD: The Critique of War in Popular Romance Fiction
—JAYASHREE KAMBLE       153
12. Straight to the Edges: Gay and Lesbian Characters and Cultural Conflict in Popular Romance Fiction
—KATHLEEN THERRIEN      164
13. “You call me a bitch like that’s a bad thing”: Romance Criticism and Redefining the Word “Bitch”
—SARAH WENDELL      178

Part Four: Readers, Authors, Communities
14. The Interactive Romance Community: The Case of “Covers Gone Wild”
—MIRIAM GREENFELD- BENOVITZ      195
15. Happy Readers or Sad Ones? Romance Fiction and the Problems of the Media Effects Model
—GLEN THOMAS      206
16. “A consummation devoutly to be wished”: Shakespeare in Popular Historical Romance Fiction
—TAMARA WHYTE       218
17. The Power of Three: Nora Roberts and Serial Magic
—CHRISTINA A. VALEO       229

Works Cited      241
About the Contributors      257
Index      261

Book Reviews & Awards

“a fascinating, history of scholarship on popular romance fiction. All scholars of popular culture should read this sophisticated and rigorous volume…the essays in the volume are refreshing”—The Journal of American Culture.

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