Tuesday, February 20, 2007

On an Almost Unrelated Front...

OK, folks. I know you're out there.

You love poetry, but you also love novels.

Love novels. Novels about love. Novels about romance.

Romance novels.

You love what they do with poetry. You love what they do with genre conventions. You love them because they are smart, fun, and (like the poetry you love) absurdly neglected by smart, fun critics.

That's why you want to think about this new Call for Papers:

The Mind of Love: New Approaches to Popular Romance

As is well-known by now, mass market romance novels constitute at least half of the domestic paperback market and an increasing percentage of the hardcover market. British, Canadian, and American romances are read all over the world, with many best-selling authors making most of their money from international sales; meanwhile, distinct national traditions of romance writing have developed, or continue to flourish, in Australia, India, China, and elsewhere. In all markets, the romance genre is undergoing substantial external and internal expansion: not only are traditional romance authors branching out into mainstream fiction, but the romance genre is also exploding with new sub-genres, each adding a romantic twist to previous niche markets. Online romance reader communities are power-houses of information and networking, and online erotica publishing houses are pushing sexual boundaries and thriving financially.

Sadly, academic criticism and theory of the romance—whether literary criticism, sociological analysis, editorial theory, or feminist scrutiny—has not kept up with the changes in the genre. Janice Radway's sociological evaluation of romance readers and literary analysis of the romance genre is more than twenty years out-of-date, written before any of the changes that define the modern romance had evolved. "Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women," edited by best-selling romance author Jayne Ann Krentz, is an invaluable tool for the romance critic, but is now more than ten years old and never claimed to be academic. It is well past time for a volume of sophisticated, rigorous, and romance-positive academic analyses of romance.

We therefore call for essays for an academic volume of romance-positive criticism and analysis of the romance genre. We welcome essays on romance novels, authors, or the romance genre from any disciplinary or theoretical perspective, to include:

* History of the romance novel
* Heroes and heroines of the romance (construction, history, changes)
* Images of the body, representations of sexuality, and romantic ideals of men and women, masculinity and femininity
* Narrative structures and conventions (i.e., shifts from heroine-centered narrative to narratives shared between hero and heroine to the return of first person)
* Plot structures and conventions (their construction, history, changes, implications)
* Analyses of individual authors or even individual novels
* Non-traditional authors classed as romance (Diana Gabaldon, Laurell K. Hamilton, etc.)
* Romance series (category series like Harlequin Presents, or on-going single or multiple author series)
* Romances in the international market
* Category vs. Mainstream romance
* Sub-genres (history, narrative structure, expectations, formulae, changes): Western, Regency, Medieval, Generic historical, Christian or inspirational, Military, Paranormal (vampire, were, empath, etc.), Futuristic/time travel, Multi-cultural, Erotica, Gay/lesbian, Contemporary, humor, etc.
* Comparison with Chick Lit / Rise of Chick Lit
* A re-evaluation of a canonical text from a romance perspective
* Readings of romance texts as they allude to, incorporate, or ask to be read in light of canonical texts
* Romance using and/or rewriting literary archetypes, mythology, the Bible, fairy tales
* Encounters between romance fiction and philosophy or literary / cultural theory: i.e., queer, new historical, or cultural-studies readings of romance novels or the romance-novel industry; romance fiction and the philosophical study of eros, marriage, and love
* Psychology and romance fiction: are Freudian and post-Freudian models (Chodorow, Lacan, Kristeva) the best for understanding popular romance fiction? What can more recent research into the psychology of optimism, resilience, and happiness (e.g., the work of Martin Seligman) reveal about the genre? What psychological models and theories are visibly deployed by particular novels or novelists, and what do the works do with them?

We also welcome essays on the romance novel industry and the communities of readers that flourish around it, including:
* Professional organizations (Romance Writers of America, Romantic Novelists Association) and Industry conferences (RWA Annual National Conference, Romantic Times Convention)
* Romance reader response, individual reader blogs
* On-line romance communities (AAR, RRA, individual authors' Message Board communities, etc.)
* Romance review sites/blogs (Smart Bitches, Dear Author), romance review communities
* Transformations in romance publishing since the 1980s
* Rise of on-line publishing houses, especially on-line erotica/Romantica

Detailed abstract or draft essay and a short CV are due by June 1, 2007. Final essays will be due December 1, 2007. We are happy to answer any inquiries.

Dr. Sarah S. G. Frantz sfrantz AT uncfsu . edu (*trying to beat the spambots)
Dr. Eric Selinger eselinge AT depaul . edu