On Academic Romances

I don’t read romance.  No, Sir, I don’t like it.

Which isn’t to say that my opinion is at all informed.  I’ve never read a romance novel, so I can’t rightly say that I don’t like it (even though I did and I don’t).

I’m basing my opinions on everything I’ve ever heard or read about Romance as a genre.  The only damning evidence I can recall at the moment is that the guidelines for romance novels are so stringent as to be astringent, even more formulaic than the traditional three-act movie structure.
I recently read someone comparing this type of corseted romance as being like a sonnet.  The implication is that, as with a sonnet, this type of romance (called category romance, because it’s published in a particular category or line by a publisher) inspires creativity from the author because they have to dance around the particular requirements laid down by the publisher.

However, the comparison doesn’t hold up.  With sonnets, the requirements are in the form.  With category romances, the requirements are in the narrative.  Though a sonnet always ties you down to fourteen lines, iambic pentameter, and a certain rhyme scheme, there are infinite possibilities within that shell.  The subject is not restricted.

With this kind of romance, your possibilities are much more limited.  I have to admit that, mathematically, the permutations within the romance restrictions are still infinite, it’s just that the differences between the permutations are much, much smaller.

All of which is to say that, no, I don’t read romance.

I do, however, read academic treatises on romance.  For example, Teach Me Tonight.

I was directed to the blog because of a recent dust-up regarding an essay posted there about a specific romance by Kelly Hunter called With this Fling… where Laura Vivanco wrote about the representation of feminism in the novel as viewed through the main character.  The author’s friends (and, often, fellow romance authors) posted angry-ish comments to the blog and a discussion erupted.

Note to Others: If you want to seduce me, do so through well-written criticism.

I’m a sucker for academic analyses of popular culture (see my shortcut on Douglas Wolk’s Reading Comics) and, for the most part, my enjoyment of such writing has nothing to do with whether I’ve experienced the particular pop culture under discussion or would ever want to.

For me, criticism is not so much about the work under discussion as it is the evidence of an agile mind at work considering a particular work, the beauty of careful thought set down in an intricate arrangement of logic.

Laura Vivanco definitely has such a mind. I endorse your exploring it.

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