Back in the day, when I was an undergrad and grad student, I did a good number of presentations of scholarly papers on pretty much whatever topics I could get accepted by the conference’s planning committee. I’ve presented papers on using email and instant messenger to teach college composition to learning disabled students, and on themes of rebirth and repentance in Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

I’ve also had a ball of a time presenting at Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association regional and national conferences because then you’d get to sit in on sessions addressing anything from Buffy (a whoooole lotta Buffy, come to think of it, and all things Joss Whedon) to religious themes in the Back to the Future trilogy. The PCA/ACA conferences were fun because the professors and students presenting were all focusing on popular culture topics that they were interested in and passionate about, and most of the people attending were open to the idea that sometimes, current American popular culture not only enjoys but demands scholarly examination. Plus it’s fun to flex the lit crit muscles on topics like Survivor and Charles in Charge.

So I’m pretty gleeful that I’ve been forwarded some calls for papers for a book of critical essays examining Jennifer Cruisie’s novels. And more recently, snarkhunter sent me an invitation to submit for the Southwest/Texas Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Annual Regional Conference panel on “Romance Fiction: Rumpled Sheets – Romance Writer’s & Writing.” The CFP states,

We are looking for individual paper proposal submissions and/or panel proposals for this unique genre of fiction. Topics might include, but are not limited to,  issues such as archetypes, the body, conformity, conventions, culture, ethnic roles, gender, genre, the hero and heroine, history, ideal female/male representations, love, myth, power, sex and sex roles, social aspects, social expectations, subversion, technology, transcendence, values, virtues.

Well now, that covers quite a bit – but sad I am to notice no specific invitations to discuss the scholarly ramifications of postmodern mantitty! There are plenty of romance novels that invite critical analysis, though.

It’s been awhile since I’ve attended any college conferences, but I know a good number of the readers here are either in school, teaching or professor-ing, or building a base of published scholarly articles that address romantic fiction. Have there been more papers and panels that talk about romance, or is romance still mainly appearing only in the pop-culture conferences and the RWA regional and national conferences? And if you were writing a critical essay on a romance novel, what would you write about?


Candy rightly suggested I include the CPF I received from snarkhunter – so here it is, if you’re inclined to make a submission!

Romance Fiction: Rumpled Sheets
Romance Writers & Writing

Southwest/Texas Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association
Annual Regional Conference
February 14-17, 2007
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Conference Hotel:
Hyatt Regency Albuquerque
330 Tijeras
Albuquerque, NM 87102
Phone:  1-505-842-1234
Fax:  1-505-766-6710

Individual presenters and panelists are invited to examine the popular
culture of romance writers & romance writing for the
association’s annual regional
conference. This conference will provide you with a
wonderful opportunity to
share scholarly interests and to gain insights into
romance fiction with
other academics and interested individuals.
We are looking for individual paper proposal
submissions and/or panel
proposals for this unique genre of fiction. Topics
might include, but are not
limited to,  issues such as archetypes, the body,
conformity, conventions, culture,
ethnic roles, gender, genre, the hero and heroine,
history, ideal
female/male representations, love, myth, power, sex
and sex roles, social aspects,
social expectations, subversion, technology,
transcendence, values, virtues.
E-mail me some titles of recent presentations.
Those interested in presenting a paper or
participating on a panel at this
conference should send an abstract of approximately
100 words (or more) to me,
the area chair, no later than December 1,  2006.
Attached to your abstract
you are asked to please submit a short “potential”
bibliography if possible
and include a brief biographical sketch about
yourself. Submissions may require
some refinement at the area chair’s discretion. Final
decisions regarding
the organization of our sessions for this conference
will be made shortly after
the submission deadline. I will keep you informed as
things develop.
If you have colleagues or friends who might be
interested in presenting in
this area at this conference, please forward them
this e-mail.
Please send your abstracts and proposals to:
Dr.  Cheryl Wiltse
Collin County Community College
Communications & Humanities, Founders 238
9700 Wade
Frisco, TX 76035
972-377-1546 (e-mail submissions preferred)
_cwiltse@ccccd.edu_ (
The SW/TX PCA/ACA accepts scholarly papers from
academics, students, and
professionals. Those with no academic affiliation are
also encouraged to submit
proposals for presentation. Presenters are limited to
giving one paper at
this conference. When presented, papers should run no
longer than 15-20 minutes.
The organization should meet your required audio
visual needs. All
presenters must join the one of the two associations.
For additional information about the conference or
hotel, please visit the
SC/TX PCA/ACA website at

and at

, or
contact me


  if you have any

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    You’re familiar with the Romance Scholar group at

    They’re the only academic group I know that is solely devoted to modern genre romance and occasionally they’ll discuss CFP’s and conferences.

  2. 2
    kardis says:

    Oh, I could probably go on forever about archetypes in romance!  :cheese: I definitely think that Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” could provide quite a tasty paper on romance. Perhaps even extended to include a section on mantitty!

  3. 3
    Becca says:

    I’d like to do a paper on world building in Nora Robert’s IN DEATH series, particularly in the early ones. She does a fantastic, almost Bujoldian job of building her future world and the history of how it got there.

  4. 4
    Gypsy says:

    Funny! I did a brief defense of the romance novel in graduate school for one of my courses.

    I think I’d be interested in women’s sex roles, then and now. Contrasting sexually innocent and subsequently assaulted heroines of the 70s with some of the more self-actualized heroines of today.

    I’d also be interested in exploring issues surrounding body type/appearance.

  5. 5

    I presented a paper on Love Stories, a YA romance series from the late 1990s and early 2000s, at the Rhetoric Society of America national conference. My main dish was genre theory with a side of feminism. I analyzed the series guidelines (much like the Harlequin guidelines), then pointed out how the books followed and sometimes subverted those guidelines. (Really what I wanted to do was get a Love Story published myself, but I did not say this to the Rhetoric Society of America.)

    In the paper, I cited essays on romance that were published in the academic journals English Journal and Genre. You’ll occasionally see romance articles pop up in English journals, just as you’ll see the occasional article on Oprah’s book club (I had a colleague who was obsessed with analyzing Oprah’s book club and we did get a little worried). English used to be all about studying a few revered works. Now that the discipline has branched out to study how people use language and literacy in everyday life, it makes sense to study not only the extremely popular romance genre but also how and why people read and use and write it.

  6. 6
    Sarah F. says:

    There’s Teach Me Tonight, a site for “musings on romance fiction from an academic perspective.”  Laura Vivanco does a bang-up job with posts, while Eric Selinger, Pam Regis, Sandra Schwab and I add some now and then.

    On TMT, you’ll see other academic romance links.  The best one is Romance Wiki with a bibliography of academic articles on romance that’s split all sorts of fun and interesting ways.

    Then there’s Eric Selinger’s Resources for Teaching Popular Novels.

    I’m involved in the Jenny Crusie book.  I’m also presenting at the national PCA/ACA conference in a panel organized by the indefatigable Eric Selinger.  I’m presenting on the construction of romance heroes, because that’s my particular obsession.

    There’s a brave new world out there in Romancelandia, and hopefully it’s a little more hospitable than Huxley’s or Radway’s world.

  7. 7
    Jenica says:

    Were I in a litcrit state of mind, I would probably examine the intertwined perspectives on women’s emotional dependence and independence that are present in many romance novels—modern romance heroines are often fully functional humans (imagine!) who find happiness by coupling, thus reducing their independence… I suspect there’s a paper in what that says about gender roles and our cultural expectations, etcetera and blah.

  8. 8
    Emily says:

    The closest thing to a paper on a romance novel of any sort this year has been a paper on Patrick Suskind’s Perfume.
    Which…I dunno, COULD be a really really sick kind of love story, in a way…
    I did devote one major portion of the paper to how the main character bookends his series of murders with redhaired women and how he was subconsciously seeking a kind of erotic/vampiric connection with these women, his “mates”, by stealing their “essence” of scent and life, and connecting with them through the symbolism of blood and the dark supernatural forces attributed to redheads throughout history, including but not limited to Lilith and the Greek lamia who were often portrayed with red hair.
    Basically, I figured he was lonely and dug the carrot-tops in a weird way.
    Enough to kill them, anyhow.
    …only it came out way more eloquent.

  9. 9
    Sarah F. says:

    Jenica, yes—but don’t the men get less independent/more dependent too?  I personally think that’s what people forget.  If the women get “tied down” to a man at the end of romances, don’t the men get “tied down” to a woman in the same way?  If the woman can’t live without the man, isn’t it also true that the man can’t live without the woman?  And isn’t that a powerful statement, too?

  10. 10
    Zoe Archer says:

    Way back in my graduate student days, I wrote my Master’s Thesis on two film adaptations of Austen’s EMMA, specifically, the BBC adaptation with Kate Beckinsale (pre-Underworld Goth Glam and hair extensions) and the version with Gwyneth Paltrow.  Sadly, there wasn’t time or space to write about Clueless, though I wanted to explore in greater detail the extended metaphors of race and class.  I used a lot of theory about romance genre literature, and while I did cite Janice Radway, I found much of her methodology to be highly problematic.  But I did discuss the ways in which certain romance genre tropes played out in the more populist Paltrow adaptation, working to soften some of the more complex issues of gender and class for an American audience who might be less comfortable with, for example, the age difference between Mr. Knightley and Emma, Emma’s snobbery, the unsuitability of Harriet Smith, &c. 

    Anyway, if I ever returned to academia again, I would be very interested to read and discuss the growing market of African American romance and multicultural romance, to study more in-depth how the signifying elements of romance play out within a different cultural context.  By different, I mean different from the largely white millieu of the majority of genre romance. 

    I would also be interested in exploring the representation of class, both in historical and contemporary romance, since there is a preponderance of titled heroes in historicals and billionaires or other business tycoons in contemporaries.  Yes, the books are fantasy, but I feel that there is more going on than just monetary wish fulfillment, particularly the way financial power serves to reinforce and validate the hero’s masculinity.

    (As I’ve been writing and also working on my latest WIP, I’m come to discover my latent socialism, since the aristocracy never fares very well in my books…)

  11. 11

    I gave a paper about the Image of Scotland in American Romance Novels Since the 1990s at a conference on Scotland’s national identity and cultural standing, organized by my department in 2005. In addition, a chapter of my master thesis dealt with popular romance, and now a chapter of my PhD thesis does, too. And I’m in the happy position that I can quote not only from my own scholarly articles, but also from my own novel. Which I’m doing with glee. :-)

    Oh, and any mentioning of Radway is enough to make me spit nails. She neither knew anything about romance nor about conducting a questionnaire study. Grrrrr.

    There are, however, a number of really good studies on Mills&Boon novels: the “classics” are probably Joseph McAleer’s Passion’s Fortune and jay Dixon’s The Romance Fiction of Mills&Boon 1909-1990s. A relatively new study with an emphasis on Australian Mills&Boon authors is Juliet Flesch’s From Australia with Love, which is a great book!

  12. 12
    DS says:

    I used a lot of theory about romance genre literature, and while I did cite Janice Radway, I found much of her methodology to be highly problematic.

    Radway’s Reading the Romance was one of the first books on popular culture I had ever read.  While it did seem to lack rigor, I was fascinated at how similar the romance culture she described was to what I observed. 

    I also read it very close in time to Camille Bacon-Smith’s Enterprising Women about Women in Television Fandom which provided some interesting food for thought.  (Bacon-Smith has a newer book—Science Fiction Culture (2000) that I have just ordered and I ecstatic to note what seems to be new book in her Demon series for DAW scheduled to be published in July 2007.)

  13. 13
    KellyMaher says:

    Well, in my other life, I’m supposed to be working on a book chapter on serving the romance (and other genres) reader for a book on the research and practice of readers’ advisory.  Which reminds me that I need to get some reading on that done (in between all the fiction writing I’m supposed to be doing…damn my poor time management skills).

  14. 14
    Lindsay Hayes says:

    My master’s thesis dealt with the notion of feminism in today’s romance novels. I loved that project so much! I really miss studying romance in an academic setting. After exploring specific aspects of feminism that dealt with the space between man and woman and examining what romance authors themselves had said about feminism’s place in romance, I examined 8 novels that were on the New York Times Bestseller list last year. On the surface, the novels were somewhat feminist, but upon in depth analysis-not so much. Would my findings get me lynched at a conference like this?

  15. 15
    Mickle says:



    I’m extremely tempted to churn something out – if I didn’t have homework due on the 4th.

    I wonder if a paper on Romance in recent YA scifi/fantasy novels would look bad or good on a resume (assuming it’s for a library position, since that’s what I’m working towards).

  16. 16
    Wry Hag says:

    I, for one, am a bit mystified by the preeminence of erotica, which is getting increasingly hardcore—more violent and BDSM oriented.  Part and parcel of this development, at least on some fronts, seems to be a <style, emotional resonance) matter less and less and, if

    well wrought, are viewed as obscurations.

    (Man, I hate myself when I blow air like that!  I’d ask my dog to slap me, but he loves me too much.)

  17. 17
    Wry Hag says:

    Oops, sorry, hit the wrong key(s).  That truncated sentence was supposed to read, “a decreasing regard for craftsmanship—i.e., the traditional elements of fiction (character development, plot construction, setting, dialogue, prose style…”

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