I haven’t been able to keep an active transcript of every presentation, though I know Sarah Frantz has, and once her entry is up I will certainly link to it. But if you’ve been following the Twitter feed for the conference you’ve heard very, very brief snippets of the proceedings. Twitter is great for real time updates but in terms of the layered depth of the presentations, 140 characters is nowhere near enough. It’s impossible for me to capture the amazing thematic ideas and concepts that are being discussed.
Session I: Love and Faith: Romance and Religion
Evangelical romance fans point often to “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers a genre-defining title, as love of God redeems protagonists. Fictionalization of Biblical characters in books such as “Redeeming Love” which “overlay… basic romance plot structure with fundamentals of conservative Christian faith.”
Relationships with God necessity of religious conversion, or hero or heroine learning to address problems, sexual temptation, or other symptoms of deeper sexual malaise.
Conversion, forgiveness, obedience feature in evangelical romance, placing relationship with divine ahead of all others. Inspirational readers who are evangelical Christians read for entertainment and escape. Elude demands of daily life. Strengthen faith while relaxing through entertainment. Sounds familiar, right? Many romance readers have said thing, but evangelical readers also add that their reading is a form of directing attention to God.
They see reading as honoring God to choose that type of book as form of recreation. Pleasing to him b/c it has scripture and is clean. Skim over something or wish that you hadn’t. It’s a godly way of self entertainment.
Note: It’s interesting to me that it’s not a form of worship so much as permissable entertainment, or a way of soothing guilt over taking a “brain break” (one of Neal’s reader’s words) that the novel is captivating, engaging, emotional, and clean and “wholesome.”
The heroines are encouraging and inspiring. Christian romance is, for the inspirational reader a utility to establish connection between reader and heroine.
Neal’s analysis of reader is fascinating because it separates the Inspirational reader, particularly the evangelical Christian romance reader, as particular and unique as and from the romance reader, as Sarah Frantz pointed out on Twitter. In a curious sense, the evangelical romance reader can recast God as ultimate romance hero, with unconditional love, devotion, and strength to help with tribulations. That recasting then leads to examinations of virginity, piety, and role of heroine, and access to the heroine, in the context of inspirational romance.
Dr. Pamela Regis (SQUEEING COMMENCES NOW) is studying inspirational romance, and started by outlining the issues facing anyone who studies romance. Notably:
– Is author American or from UK? Important distinction.
– Form of “romance” is a marketing tool. Not always accurate in usage. *
– THERE ARE A LOT OF BOOKS.
– Previous works of romance
* Reminds me of Barry Eisler’s comment that when chocolate sells in red wrappers, granola won’t sell equally disguised in red wrappers because consumers will spot the difference.
Regis cites the first romance in America: Samuel Richardson’s Pamela. She is not asserting that Richardson is American, FYI. Printed in 1742-1743 by… Ben Franklin. His edition didn’t sell. Franklin “had to eat it.”
Regis’ examination of Vivia by E.D.E.N Southworth (1857) is very, very interesting, as she cites it as first inspirational romance. Regis extracted Vivia’s statement in narrative that defines barrier, and is confirmation of self-actualization and demand for autonomy from HERO. Vivia is pissed because hero is symbiotically attached to her and wants him to “withdraw” from her and “turn to the Lord” instead, to be his own person through his faith. Subversion and inversion of quest for autonomy through pleas for individual’s connection and commitment to God.
Regis is continuing to examine inspirational romance and welcomes your ideas and thoughts on the subject at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m twittering more of the panels as it’s easier to catch up with their presentations in smaller bursts. I imagine this is bugging the ever living crap out of my followers. Sorry, y’all.
What I love about this conference so far is the enthusiasm and the ideas that you can almost hear in people’s brains firing like popcorn like that one time I forgot to put the lid on the air popper. So much potential in just about every field of humanities (and, given Eric Selinger’s discussion of mathematics in Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm, the sciences as well).
Just as those of us who are devoted to romance wish that as a genre it was taken more seriously, the academics here today who see its potential wish that it were suitable subject matter for academic attention, both in pursuit of tenure and of professional promotion. If this is a start of academia examining romance, their addition to the conversation can only make everything more interesting.