Sex and Sensibility: The pursuit and recognition of reality through analysis of romance fiction in popular culture

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

Finding Mr Darcy
– however by drawing on the writing of Jane Austin, it is possible to show readers they can attaining the state of happily ever after
– although a lot can change in 200 years, love romance and friendship remain the same
– that is why Austen’s ideas still resonate in reinterpretations such as Clueless and Bridget Jones
– advocates claim romance gives women a voice – the language is coded, gives allusions and references that are inaccessible to those outside the readership (Jayne Ann Krentz)
– writers are attacked by critics for using this language who don’t understand this language

– first romance novel was Pamela by Richardson – many of the patterns / steps in Pamela are still used by writers today

Jamie Michele’s Emotional Journey:
The Varying Emotional Charges of Campbell’s Monomyth

x axis:  time progressing; y axis:  emotions (good / bad)

  • Ordinary world
  • Call to Adventure
  • Refusal of the Call
  • Things get worse
  • Crossing the Threshold
  • Meeting the Mentor
  • Trials of the Road
  • Apparent Ordeal
  • False Reward
  • Rude Awakening
  • Temporary Truce
  • Black moment
  • Final sacrifice
  • Resolution

– the eyes (a glance or gaze) are often a point of engagement between hero and heroine

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