Romance novel conference in Princeton

MWSnap004 I’ve never understood the disdain with which the romance novel is treated. It seems to me that this is nothing but pure sexism.  After all, the James Bond series of books is well regarded and even spawns movies and  the Bond gendre is simply the male version of romance books.  But Bond is literature of course!   Well there’s going to be a conference on these issues soon in Princeton on April 23-24.  Thank to Dear Author for the link.

This two-day symposium will be the first national conference to focus on the multiple ways that romance novels—long the most maligned of literary texts—can provide rich critical insight for the study of American culture, politics, and society.  This explicitly contextual, interdisciplinary, and American focus represents a rich new direction for the field of romance fiction studies.

I live about 45 minutes from Princeton and if I can arrange my work schedule I may go down there and learn something.  The current schedule is posted after the break.

Thursday, 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
7:30 pm    Registration, Betts Auditorium
8:00 pm    Conference welcome: William Gleason, Princeton University, and Eric Murphy Selinger, DePaul University
8:15 pm Keynote Roundtable, “Romance Fiction and American Culture”

  • Tania Modleski, Dept. of English, USC
  • Stephanie Coontz, Dept. of History, Evergreen State University
  • Mary Bly [“Eloisa James”], Dept. of English, Fordham University, and romance author
  • Jennifer Crusie, romance author and essayist on the genre

Friday, 8:00 am – 6:30 pm
8:00-8:30    Registration and refreshments, Betts Auditorium
8:30-10:15 Session I: Love and Faith: Romance and Religion

  • Lynn S. Neal, Dept. of Religion, Wake Forest University
  • Pamela Regis Dept. of English, McDaniel College
  • R. Marie Griffith, Dept. of Religion, Princeton University
  • Beth Patillo, romance author and ordained minister
  • Eric Murphy Selinger, Dept. of English, DePaul University

10:30-12:15 Session II: Memory and Desire: Romance, History, and Literary Tradition

  • Margaret Doody, Dept. of English, University of Notre Dame; Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching, Princeton University
  • Rita B. Dandridge, Dept. of Languages and Literature, Virginia State University
  • Ann Herendeen, romance author
  • Sally Goade, independent scholar
  • Beverly Jenkins, romance author

12:15-1:15    Lunch for panelists and pre-registered conferees, Chancellor Green
1:30-3:15 Session III: The Sweetest Taboos: Romance and Sexuality

  • Mary Bly [“Eloisa James”], Dept. of English, Fordham University, and romance author
  • Sarah S. G. Frantz, Dept. of English and Foreign Languages, Fayetteville State University
  • Julie E. Moody-Freeman, Dept. of African and Black Diaspora Studies, DePaul University
  • Guy Mark Foster, Dept. of English and Africana Studies, Bowdoin College

3:30-5:15 Session IV: Whispers in the Dark: Romance and Race

  • Gwendolyn Pough [“Gwyneth Bolton”], Dept. of Women’s Studies, Syracuse University, and romance author
  • Emily Haddad, Dept. of English, University of South Dakota
  • Esi Sogah, romance editor, Avon Books
  • Dana Johnson [“P.J. MacAllister”], Dept. of English, USC, and Alison Umminger [“Grace Grant”], Dept. of English, University of West Georgia, and collaborating romance authors

5:30-6:30 Closing Roundtable: Romance Reads the Academy

  • Michelle Buonfiglio, blogger and reviewer (Romance: B(u)y the Book)
  • Sarah Wendell, blogger and reviewer (Smart Bitches, Trashy Books)
  • Diane Pershing, romance author, President, Romance Writers of America (2008-2009)
  • Monica Jackson, author, paranormal romance; contributor to “Blogging in Black” and other author websites
  • Krisa Stroever, editor, Harlequin Books

5 Comments on Romance novel conference in Princeton

  1. Paul,
    I think your comparison to James Bond is a little off base. You are comparing a whole genre to a a single series that exists as but a subset of a different genre; further it is one that basically created the genre in which it resides. James Bond might be considered literature, but so are some of the books that served to help define the Romance Genre. No one would claim that work of Jane Austen or the Bronte Sisters was not literature after all.

    The modern Romance genre has its reputation for the same reason that media based science fiction does; more often than not the novels are written to spec, recycling plots, settings, etc. Shoot, they are even treated differently in the publishing industry.

    This isn’t to say that some modern Romance novels aren’t real literature, but I will invoke Sturgeon’s Law for Romance as a genre.


  2. Bob Martinengo // March 27, 2009 at 3:36 pm //

    Be careful Paul, academics have a way of turning fun into work.

  3. Most romance books are not written to spec. Most are original works of the author. A few, such as the Harlequin NASCAR series and some anthologies are written to spec.

    At the time they were writing, the Brontes wrote under male pen names because women were not considered real authors. Jane Austen was definitely considered as pulp fiction rather than literature at the time she wrote.

    Agree that S.F. also has a bad rep. This doesn’t mean that romance isn’t unfairly singled out. And, yes, there are bad books in romance–but I suggest there are more bad books published in so-called literary fiction each year (at least as a percentage).

    Rob Preece

  4. “I’ve never understood the disdain with which the romance novel is treated. It seems to me that this is nothing but pure sexism.”

    Huh. Surely not.

    Romance isn’t rubbish because chicks write and like it. It’s rubbish because it’s crammed with purple prose, sentimentality and stereotypes. So are books by and for permanent boys, as a rule.

    Bond, for instance. Bond is a male romance with literal bang-bang thrown in with the figurative.

    Offering up its slick vision of imperialism, Bond has taught generations to think the west’s intelligence services were up to lots of dashing good derring-do rather than the usual mundane mayhem, murder, torture and putsches.

    Bond’s bastard son for our times, the feral Jack Bauer, carries on this tradition with much less joie de vivre. He proceeds right to the thumbscrews, and the fans pant. Romance novelists have it harder. As any one of them could tell Jack’s creators, bodices need to be misunderstood, offended, ignored and overcome before being ripped off.

  5. –“Romance isn’t rubbish because chicks write and like it. It’s rubbish because it’s crammed with purple prose, sentimentality and stereotypes.”

    I have to disagree on this one. A great example is author Ginger Blymyer. You can clearly see by reading her book “Flying Into the Sun,” that it is an inspiring novel. One that is not a stereotypical pulse beater, but a life living, chance taking, personal growth romance fiction. It is wonderful and refreshing.

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