Romance, Romantic Love, and the ‘want of a fortune’

August 18th, 2013

Helen Fordham (Notre Dame University) and Barbara Milech (Curtain University) – Romance, Romantic Love, and the ‘want of a fortune’

– Contemporary popular romance has a generic history – it is anchored in the rise of the novel
– like the 18th century novel, popular romance purveys bourgeois assumptions and values in regard to women, they are citices, they are sexual beings, they find ideal love (and economic security) in heterosexual marriage
– women find pleasures in reading popular romance – both the please of reading with the grain of romance, and that of reading against the grain
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Sex and Sensibility: The pursuit and recognition of reality through analysis of romance fiction in popular culture

August 18th, 2013

Bridget Ransome (University of South Australia) – Sex and Sensibility:  The pursuit and recognition of reality through analysis of romance fiction in popular culture

– The notion of ‘culture’ is often applied to such things as classical works of literature, music and the arts, with the term ‘cultured’ considered applicable to an elite level within society of attached to a desired aspiration.

– ‘Pop-culture’ as a sub-genre is often viewed as the poor relation to ‘culture’, made up of the bits left over once high culture has been determined

– if this concept is applied to romance fiction, then it might be seen as the remnant ‘low-brow’ writing within the ‘high-brow’ world of literature

– an analysis of the concept of ‘low-brow’ fiction alludes to writing with descriptors such as escapist fiction, slapstick, camp, pornography and exploitation

– however by pop culture reinvents, reinterprets and revisions the meaning of romance and the romance novel – from myth, through the Renaissance, Romantic and Victorian period, through to contemporary wrigin

– it may be possible to assess how social forces and popular culture have contributed to the creation of the romance literary genre, and whether romance in turn is representative of reality

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Destabilising Divides and Re-imagining Subjectives: The Romance of Eloisa James

August 17th, 2013

Helen Fordham (Notre Dame University) – Destabilising Divides and Re-imagining Subjectives:  The Romance of Eloisa James

First of all, there was a session between Jennifer Kloester’s Heyer panel and this one. Dr Rachel Robertson of Curtin University did a presentation called Counting on love?: mental illness and romantic engagement in Toni Jordan’s Addition.  It was quite an interesting talk on how mental illness such as OCD and aspergers etc are not usually depicted in novels, especially in romance.  I did listen but I didn’t really take notes nor have I read the book that was being referenced, so I don’t have anything to write up.  However if people are interested in exploring this topic, it looks like an area of potential growth.

And so on to the presentation by Helen Fordham of Notre Dame University

Romance is (still) bad for you – Critics say that:
– bad influence on woken
– poor health and relationship decisions
– give women unrealistic views about what to expect about a relationship

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Writing History, reflecting history: Georgette Heyer’s Recency Novels in Context

August 17th, 2013

Dr Jennifer Kloester (University of Melbourne) –  Writing History, reflecting history:  Georgette Heyer’s Recency Novels in Context

b 1902
d 1974
– has never been out of print since 1919 (The Black Moth)
– changing perceptions of her work – her own, publisher, reader
– 20th century woman with Edwardian perceptions
– wrote novels in different genres – confident, clear sighted writer
5 novels in the first four years of her writing life in different genres (up to the death of her father)
The Black Moth (historical)
The Great Rocks Heist
The Transformation of Philip Jetan (pseudonym)
Instead of the Thorn (contemporary) – title comes from Isiah, classical education reference
Simon the Coldheart (historical)

Many of her titles have Shakespearean titles, assumptions about her readers (Behold here’s poison, Envious Casca etc)
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Swashbuckling girls and foppish men: the unusual pleasures of Georgette Heyer’s Regency Romances

August 17th, 2013

Jade Armstrong (Curtain University) –  Swashbuckling girls and foppish men:  the unusual pleasures of Georgette Heyer’s Regency Romances

Jane is a lecturer at Curtain University.  Her PhD thesis and research interests focus on adolescent femininity and popular culture, and one of the things that interests her about Heyer books is how they belong to the heroines.  Despite their archly conservative author, the Regency romances in particular feed the reader’s proto-feminist desire to engage with action and power.

The inconvenient truths of the female body present no problems for Heyer’s masquerading heroines who pass into male domains unhampered by binding breasts or visiting the toilet.  Moreover, the vainglorious heroes are the object of the female gaze as reader, heroine and narrator examine their clothes and demeanor before acquiescing to marriage.

– several novels have heroine dressed as a male for a long time
– only the hero notices that it is a woman dressed as a male, displaying the acuity of his masculine gaze
– it is a textual rather than sexual discovery (they do not engage in sexual activities)
– female characters are unhampered by the visible effects of female bodies while they are dressed as males (eg breasts, menstrual cycles) and are able to engage in male style activities such as rapier fighting unhampered

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Exploring women and modalities of power in fiction: escaping the straightjacket of genre into digital space

August 17th, 2013

Dr Lynn Allen  – Exploring women and modalities of power in fiction:  escaping the straightjacket of genre into digital space

– when a subject is highly controvertial, one cannot hope to tell the truth.  One can only hope to show how one came to hold one’s own opinion – Virginia Woolf

Modalities of Power
– personal, creative, political, knowledge, cultural, social, physical, positional, economic, etc

For most of history, Anonymous was a woman – Virginia Woolf

Dichotomies:
warrior queen vs keeper of the home
queen of the dark (Persephone) vs keeper of the light (Vestal virgin)
Virgin Mary vs Aphrodite

Genre in fiction
classifications are not value free
created by white angle saxon christian males where women had highly defined narrow roles
‘literary fiction’ vs ‘general fiction’
‘women’s fiction’ – why is there no men’s fiction.

who does genre serve?
why set out on a traditional publishing route when all the advice was not to bother?
why do we as writers assume that only the ‘best’ literature gets published and self-publishing is inferior
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The Distance Between: Romance readers, authors, publishers and the book industry in Australia

August 17th, 2013

Bronwyn Parry / Bronwyn Clarke – The Distance Between:  Romance readers, authors, publishers and the book industry in Australia

Context – Rapid change
– readers’ social connections
– readers’ book-buying patterns
– shifts in book retailing
– digital books, paper books and distributors
– territorial rights
– authors publications choices

Reading is individual, but has always been a social activity also (public reading, share books, talk about what we read etc)
– reading in the digital age is increasingly social
– individual reading networks encompassing thousands of other readers
– romance genre communities active online since early internet days, pre-web
(was early to find like minded readers, driven to usenet in very early days)

Readers are gobally connected – blogs, twitter, goodreads, facebook
– geograhy is now immaterial
– discoverabilty and access imperative to sales
– techno-savvy readers can circumvent DRM and geo-restrictions
(many techno-savvy readers, and increasing)
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Romancing Feminism: From Women’s Studies to Women’s Fiction

August 17th, 2013

Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd (Edith Cowan University)- Romancing Feminism:  From Women’s Studies to Women’s Fiction

After the keynote address, the rest of the day was 30 minute panel discussions.

The first of these that I attended was by Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd, from the School of Psychology and Social Science at Edith Cowan University.  I am extremely sorry to say that I missed part of this lecture – I went to my room to take migraine tablets and lie down during morning tea, and returned a bit late after the break.

The reason I am so sorry I missed part of Dr Reid Boyd’s talk is because she had the elements I found missing from Professor Whelehan’s keynote address.  Dr Reid Boyd is an academic, and she is also a published Romance author (under the pseudonym Eliza Redgold).  With the demise of women’s studies in universities she decided to look in another direction, and attended her first RWA convention.  And was surprised to find a very familiar scene – predominately female participants and presenters, a collaborative leadership model, a supportive atmosphere, and lots of purple everywhere.  Out of that she explored the idea that romance is actually a form of feminism.

The paper she presented today looked at noble women who created courtly love, examining its contemporary popular explosion and the concurrent rise of popular romance studies in the wake of women’s studies.  She proposed that reading ad writing romance fiction is not merely personal escapism, but also political activism.

– time to liberate romance to allow it to have space again
– romance writing has improved her academic writing
– as raised in the keynote address, she mentioned that there is a lack of a code of love in feminist writing

After the discussion finished I had a quick word to apologise for being late, and to also thank her for giving me hope that feminist literature and studies of romance have in fact progressed beyond the 1980s.  Dr Reid Boyd told me that there is actually a lot of writing in 3rd wave feminism that looks at romance writing, so I will have to have a look at that when I get a chance.

And I will also also check out her novel!

EJC Keynote speaker – Professor Imelda Whelehan

August 16th, 2013

Meaningful encounters – 40 years of feminists reading romance

This was a session that was very interesting, but it was also a little disappointing for reasons I will go into at the end.

Professor Whelehan looked at how feminists have viewed romance literature – usually in a negative way – yet at the same time it formed part of their early reading.  The language used by them was often negative, dismissive, derogatory, however there was never a suggestion of an alternative to fill the place that the space romance creates for women to have freedom to create and imagine.

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