This conference is organized in the context of the research project “The politics, aesthetics and marketing of literary formulae in popular women’s fiction: History, Exoticism and Romance” (HER) and aims to discuss recent developments in the production, distribution and consumption of popular romance that account for its escalating popularity and its increasing complexity. How comes that the genre’s traditional formulae are thriving in the murky waters of cultural industries in the global marketplace, particularly in light of the new ways and challenges of the Digital Age?
Evidence has it that the scope, production and range of popular romance has continued to diversify throughout the late 20th and early 21st century, reaching an astonishing variety of imprints, categories and subgenre combinations. As an example, Ken Gelder lists the different “brand portfolios” (2004: 46) from the most popular romance publishing houses with series categories that identify subgenres of romance: Modern, Tender, Sensual, Medical, Historical and Blaze (Mills and Boon); or Desire, Sensation, and Intrigue (Silhouette). Beyond these, the list goes on to include other developments or subgenre combinations from the more classical, gothic, thriller or fantasy romance to the more reader oriented Chick Lit, Black (or African-American) romance and the, arguably, more radically modern Lesbian or Gay romance, etc. High in our agenda is then to interrogate the roots and consequences of this diversification of generic traits and target readers within the more general framework of Global Postmillennial cultural developments. Likewise we also aim to examine the political reasons that inspire and transpire from the industry’s imaginative and aggressive commercial and authorial strategies.
Departing from dismissive academic analyses and conventional understandings of popular romance as lowbrow, superficial and escapist, conference participants are asked to unpack the multiple practices and strategies behind the notion of “Romantic Escapes”. A critical or political reengagement with the recreation of these temporal or spatial settings, whether idyllic and exotic locations, specific historical contexts or alternative futuristic scenarios, can help rethink popular romance beyond the mere act of evasive reading or the unreflective consumption of literary romantic experiences, resituating the genre as a useful tool for sociocultural discussion (Radway 1984; Illouz 1997). In this sense, contributions may engage with the multiple ways which the escapist romantic experience can be put to use in more “serious” formats (e.g. Neo-Victorian, historical fiction and historiographic metafiction) and thus with the implications of adapting well-known romantic patterns, formulae or conventions to more culturally “prestigious” genres.
Moving on from these contested acts of escapism, and expanding on Appadurai’s well-known formulation of “scapes” as the multiple “dimensions of global cultural flow” (1996: 33), conference participants are also encouraged to explore the multivalent meanings of these “Romancescapes”, that is “the multiple worlds which are constituted by the historically situated imaginations of persons and groups spread around the globe” (1996: 33) articulated in ever increasing complex and diverse literary formulations of the romantic experience. What are the effects of the global flows of symbolic and cultural capital on the genre? To what extent are romantic narratives determined by specific local conditions and “situated knowledges” (Haraway 1988)?
The impact of these glocal forces is evident in the writing, teaching, translation, production, reception and marketing of romance as mediated by the global “E-scapes” (Rayner 2002) of the digital age. The ever-changing demands of the glocal literary marketplace have also altered the conventional roles of writers, readers, and publishers, now blurred in practices such as self-publishing, specific subgenres like fan fiction, or increasingly influential spaces of literary discussion like virtual book clubs. Participants who may want to venture off the beaten tracks of the conventional romance industry are also welcome to explore and chart these new E-scapes of popular romance.
We invite scholarly submissions that address these and other related topics in relation to any of the multiple sub-genres of popular romance as well as the multifarious “romancescapes” in other popular narrative media. Contributors may address these topics from different critical perspectives and disciplines: cultural studies, gender studies, postcolonial studies, neo-Victorian studies, comparative literature, and digital humanities, among others.
Please submit a 200-word abstract and a short biographical note for a twenty-minute paper by 16 March 2018. Submissions of thematic panels are also welcome.
Submissions should be sent to Dr. Paloma Fresno-Calleja (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Conference dates: 9-11 July 2018