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A Room of Our Own: Romance Book Community & Virginia Woolf


This past weekend, I was part of a small panel sponsored by International Association for the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR) which was held during the Popular Culture Association conference in St. Louis. The panel that I sat on was about romances safe spaces.

Dr. Pam Regis presented a paper based on the concept popularized by Virginia Woolf’s most recognizable essay, A Room of One’s Own. Woolff argues that in order for women to be able to produce significant literary works on the level of Shakespeare, women must be financially independent and have a place of her own, free of the influence of the patriarchal society.

Dr. Regis then spoke about Hélène Cixous whose “The Laugh of Medusa” is well known for the proposition of “écriture féminine” or language that is wholly feminine. Cixous argues that women should be writing works that challenge phallogocentrism because it represents women as the hole, the lack defined by the phallus.

Regis took a kernel of Cixous’ essays and that is “to break up the truth with laughter.” In other words, you can more readily challenge pre existing concepts through laughter. The last scholar philosopher she discussed was Tom Veatch and his paper, A Theory of Humor. Veatch proposes this equation of humor:

The necessary and (jointly) sufficient conditions for the perception of humor are:

V
The perceiver has in mind a view of the situation as constituting a violation of some affective commitment of the perceiver to the way something in the situation ought to be. That is, a “subjective moral principle” (cf. next section) of the perceiver is violated.

N
The perceiver has in mind a predominating view of the situation as being normal.

Simultaneity
The N and V understandings are present in the mind of the perceiver at the same instant in time.

In the paper presented by Dr. Regis, she postulates that romance is a genre devoted to feminine writing. It is certainly written by women (although whether it is free from the influence of patriarchy is arguable) and that the room of one’s own urged by Woolf exists, only it is a virtual room. Within that virtual room is a space carved out by the SmartBitches who challenge the norms through humor. Now, norms are not facts, but rather societal norms or perceived truths. We can obviously create our own wrongheaded perceived truths within the genre such as the idea that the Magic Hoo Hoo is saved by the Mighty Wang (terms used by the Smart Bitches on their blog and in their book, Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels). The SmartBitches actually embrace the theory of Cixous, albeit maybe unconsciously, when they write that the Mighty Wang is saved by the Magic Hoo Hoo, that the power of the Wang is circumscribed by the Magic Hoo Hoo. Instead of women being the hole, the lack, the romance genre describes the Mighty Wang as helpless in the face of the Magic Hoo Hoo.

In sum, Regis argues that through humor, Smart Bitches are implementing the theories of Woolf, Cixous, and Veatch and through humor are challenging the norms and providing a safe place for women who write and who read what women write.

At least this is what I took Regis to be saying in the paper she gave last Friday. In follow up, I spoke briefly about the concept of the virtual community as being a safe place for romance. So many people who write to me and who I meet in person say that they found they found the romance community because they knew no one in their real life who shared their passion. The ease at which readers and authors, scholars and hobbyists, can create their own virtual spaces (blogs, journals, message boards) allows for growth of the community. I’ve always believed that the community of readers, in particular, needs to be broad based, representing our diversity; and well armed.

One thing I did not discuss (or obliquely referred to) during my talk was that the proliferation of intelligent women reading romance has given us not only agency, but also language. I’ve been able to read and absorb the deft responses and defense of the genre by those far more literate and educated in the literature studies and then employ those defenses in other reaches of the internet. By way of example, I compared the infamous blog post by Hilzoy at Obisidian Wings when she called romances “not books” to that of DailyKos Laura Clawson. To me, the front page confessional and defense of the romance genre could not have happened if not for the safe spaces that readers like the Smart Bitches and all those internet readers who came before and all those who will come after, have helped to maintain and create.

I think this Woolf quote embodies the greatness and the need for the romance community:

Without those forerunners, Jane Austen and the Brontes and George Eliot could no more have written than Shakespeare could have written without Marlowe, or Marlowe without Chaucer, or Chaucer without those forgotten poets who paved the ways and tamed the natural savagery of the tongue. For masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.

- Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

The point of presenting these papers, I gather, is to engender discussion. I ask you, is the virtual community a room of one’s own as envisioned by Woolf? What do you think are the positives of the virtual community? How can it be healthier? Stronger? What makes it weak? Has it reached its zenith? Where do you see it next year? In five years? Ten? What would you like to see changed? What do you like about the current iteration?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

35 Comments

  1. dick
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 08:57:57

    I don’t think it’s possible to deny Woolf’s position that all that comes before influences nearly everything that follows. But whether a great artist could not come into existence without that past is questionable, as Dorothy Sayers does in “The Mind of the Maker,” and in an odd kind of way, as Pirandello does in “Six Characters in Search of an Author.” But that’s beside the point.

    One of the first things I noted about romance readers when I started posting on AAR about 8 years ago, was the attitude of being under siege, as if somehow any negative comment about romance threatened annihilation. I sense a bit of that same attitude here, and, it seems to me, part and parcel of that siege thinking, is the recent effort to bring romance under the academic aegis, as if that will somehow make it more worthy.

    More worthy of what? Well, academic attention, maybe…which is sort of circular I think.

    There is also more than a tinge of sexism in the discussion as there is in the community of romance readers, as if males can neither read it with enjoyment nor truly understand the ins and outs of the concept of romance. In a way, that’s kind of contradictory, for could romance exist without males somewhere in the equation? without the concept of pater familias?

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  2. Mari
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 09:36:15

    Oh nos! The grad school panties are showing again! Am I only reader who find these “literary analysis” posts more than a little annoying? Of particular iriitation:

    One thing I did not discuss (or obliquely referred to) during my talk was that the proliferation of intelligent women reading romance

    Pardon me but, huh?

    So I guess before the wonderful Smart Bitches were writing their blog, only stupid women read romance?! Sorry, its more than a little insulting to think that without all these brave bloggers tapping away, romance would mired in an ignorant awamp of trailor trash hicks and we’d all be sneaking romances out of the drug store in brown paper bags! :) (I have actually done this!)

    Look, I’m a long time reader of you guys and I love your blogs, but let’s not get carried away here. I think smart and intelligent romance readers would find a way to carry on without you. Or even not so smart and intelligent readers! :)

    Posts like these remind why I will never, ever get an English Ph.D. I’m sure there’s good stuff in it and its nice to be all intellectually justified and stuff, but yeeesh….

    I seriously question the motivation of some of these academics and their recent “discovery” of romance. Are they really interested in romance as it is written for readers, or are they just jumping on a “cultural bandwagon” with some kind of agenda in mind? Do they love the genre or do they secretly (or not so secretly) find it objectionable and seek to undermine and change it, to make it more PC?

    Whatever. Can’t see how any of this makes the books better. It’s just academics wanting work and notoriety. Fortunatly, most of what they say will be ignored.

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  3. Sarah Frantz
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 09:36:19

    Um, wow, @dick, I’m not quite sure what to say. Maybe we think romance IS worthy of academic analysis because everything is and because we feel it’s been understudied. We’re not circling the wagons, we’re opening them out.

    And while men can read and understand and enjoy romance (there’s Dr. Eric Selinger, after all, who is more a founder of the recent academic interest in romance than I am), it IS, by and large, a women’s community, peopled mainly by women readers and writers, as is the romance blogosphere. Talking about women and women’s spaces is not in and of itself sexist.

    My own work is entirely about masculinity in romance and the thing I stress in every paper, article, and presentation, that, by and large, it’s a female-authored masculinity, written by women for female readers, and may or may not have anything to do with “real” men. It’s fantasy, wish fulfillment, working out of issues and concerns and problems. It constructs gender and reacts to its construction in the rest of society. Discussing that does not make me sexist. One might say that you bringing up “sexism” at all smacks of defensiveness on your side, but one wouldn’t because that would be rude.

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  4. Christine Rimmer
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 09:44:50

    I just think it’s about the money and the room and the door to shut. Always. Communities matter and reinforce. But you need the time and the private space to work. That’s the bottom line.

    I find the romance community–online and otherwise–interesting and stimulating. But it’s more of use to the reader in me than the writer. And yeah, since the reader is the well and the forerunner of the writer, I get what Regis is going for. But in the end, what a writer needs most is a place to go where they can’t interrupt you unless there’s blood or fire.

    And a penis or the lack thereof? More of interest a hundred years ago than now.

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  5. Jane
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 10:34:37

    @Mari crap. I had a long response typed out and then I accidentally deleted it. I am sorry if I conveyed the impression that there were no smart women who read romance prior to the internet community. Further, I don’t think bloggers are the only part of the community which is why I referenced message boards, journals, etc. The romance community online is large and vast. It comprises of mailing lists, yahoo groups, message boards, and websites. Bloggers are merely one cog in the overall community.

    Further, I agree with you that romances were read by smart women before the internet community and should the internet romance community be gone tomorrow, the genre will still be read by smart women.

    The thrust of Regis’ paper is that there is a room of one’s own, except it is a virtual room. One part of the room is inhabited by the SmartBitches who have created a space where romance readers can come and kvetch about their love (and hate) of the genre without criticism of the mainstream who regularly deride the genre. Specifically, I felt that Regis was addressing how the SBs are tackling the norms through humor.

    What I was referencing in my small part was that the intelligent women who do comprise the romance community have enabled me, the reader, to better talk about the genre and how it is not simply trash.

    Again, I apologize if my post came across as suggesting that smart women did not read romance before the rise of the virtual community. The virtual community has provided a place where readers from all walks of life, all educational backgrounds, all economic backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, and religious backgrounds can come and share their love of the genre. Many of us have no way to do this in real life. This doesn’t make those online smarter than those offline or those who choose not to participate in the community. The virtual community simply provides those of us without physical communities to enjoy socialization around our mutual passion and interest.

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  6. Sarah Frantz
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 10:39:52

    @Mari: Um…wow. Sorry you find us so objectionable. o_0

    I’ve been a romance reader since I was 12 and snuck one of my mother’s Mills and Boon. My only agenda is that I ended up studying Jane Austen for my dissertation because studying romance wasn’t even an option anywhere on the horizon, and I’d love to give grad students today and in the future the opportunity to study what they really want to study instead of studying what the academy allows them to study.

    We haven’t recently “discovered” romance. Almost all of us have been readers ever since we could remember but have only recently come together in any sort of numbers that allow us to study romance without it resulting in complete career suicide. Creating a community of academics who study romance allow us to exchange ideas and theories and articles, rather than operating in a vacuum, as any academics of popular romance studies have done until now–and that’s not just romance fiction, but romance in ANY genre, media, and text. It just hasn’t been adequately theorized and I (obviously) think it needs to be. I’m sorry you disagree.

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  7. Sunita
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 11:18:25

    @Mari: I guess I can see why you interpreted Jane’s comment the way you did, but did you miss the part where she said

    the proliferation of intelligent women reading romance has given us not only agency, but also language. I've been able to read and absorb the deft responses and defense of the genre by those far more literate and educated in the literature studies and then employ those defenses in other reaches of the internet.

    Of course intelligent women have always been reading romance. The problem has been that many of them were doing it in isolation, as Jane also said. Now there are all kinds of spaces, including ones where literary and sociological discussions of novels can mix with non-academic ones.

    As a participant of internet romance sites for a decade, I can attest that it was often difficult to talk about books in an analytical way; someone would inevitably come along and tell us we were overthinking, or that we should take it elsewhere. I’m glad that I don’t have to participate in places like that anymore because there are plenty of welcoming venues.

    Your belief that there is some kind of career-enhancing bandwagon effect to studying romance literature and reading is pretty ironic, given how hard it is to get support (either financial or institutional). And no, I’m not an English professor. I’m in a field where there is even less interest or understanding.

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  8. katie
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 11:25:43

    You spelled Woolf’s name wrong in the title of your article. I don’t know how you expect to be taken seriously when you don’t even bother to check your spelling.

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  9. katie
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 11:43:01

    Oh, forgot to add, bravo Mari. Wonderful post filled with points I very much agree with. However, prepare yourself to be circled. It is very wrong to disagree on this blog. :)

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  10. Ridley
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 12:05:44

    @katie:

    Man, never mind the “proliferation of intelligent women”, there’s been a proliferation of sandy twats here lately.

    I think that means you’ve hit the big time, Jane. Your site is now big enough that people feel the need to throw stones at the Goliath. Well done.

    Wish I had something constructive to add, but feminist theory and literary scholarship are two things that have always just sailed over my head. I don’t have any of the necessary language to join that party.

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  11. Jane
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 12:10:12

    @katie I’m genuinely curious as to what you found most concernig about the original post. Was it Dr. Regis’ paper that I probably butchered in the retelling, the application of a room of one’s own as applying to the romance Internet community, or the idea that the Internet community gives readers agency and language?

    And of course you are right that my spelling skills could use some help. My blogging partner Janine pointed it out to me this am so I could correct it. I assume you read via feedreader and it hadn’t repopulated?

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  12. Joanne
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 12:49:44

    @Ridley: No BS, I’m curious, what’s a ‘sandy twat’? (and is it a sign that I’m a romance book reader that I immediately thought of sex on the beach?!)

    Just a thought about the rest: women look at all kinds of things in different ways. We react to books and story lines and characters as individually as we react to clothing and men and everything else in this world. If some women find succor in seeing what’s beneath the written word then that’s great for them. Go for it. Enjoy.

    Actually, and it’s an assumption that is possibly unfair, but I’ve always thought that us not-so-educated (and that’s what we mean by smart, isn’t it?) women get more from romance authors then those who have had the opportunity to see the literary world from a wider perspective.

    I seldom notice the inaccurate historical details or the incorrect use of titles for the aristocracy. I’m just reading along and going with the story. How do Jane and I end up with the same grade for Lisa Valdez’s newest book? Dunno. Guess we’re just all romance readers at heart, the male romance readers included.

    I don’t look for deeper meanings in romance books. Is it a good story? Does it make me want more from that author. That’s enough for me. But if someone (or many someones) want to analyze the plot and characters and language, that’s cool. That study doesn’t lessen my enjoyment of the books I read.

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  13. Ridley
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 13:00:17

    @Joanne:

    It’s a person behaving as though they may have had sex on a beach, as their twat is now sandy.

    We’ve used the shorthand term sandy in WoW for eons. Sometimes it’s just the perfect descriptor for a chippy pedant with nothing constructive to add.

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  14. RRRJessica
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 14:35:10

    @Mari:

    “I seriously question the motivation of some of these academics and their recent “discovery” of romance. Are they really interested in romance as it is written for readers, or are they just jumping on a “cultural bandwagon” with some kind of agenda in mind?”

    I can’t speak for others, but I, for one, am jumping on a cultural bandwagon.

    And my agenda is this: to have as many orgasms as possible while getting paid to do it.

    @Jane: you did not butcher it. Your summary was better than mine, and I have a PhD in feminist philosophy … and the underwear to prove it.

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  15. Michelle
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 14:50:25

    I can now not get the phrase sandy twat out of my mind-LOL-perfect description-kind of like the “who pissed in your cheerios” idea.

    So glad there are people eager to tell Jane and company “how ur are doing it wrong”. Some people just have to put them uppity women in their place.

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  16. Eva
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 15:05:22

    @jane Just so you are aware, Woolf is still misspelled in the title and throughout your post, it should be two “o”s and one “f”.

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  17. Ridley
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 15:12:26

    @Michelle:

    I won’t lie and say I’ve never noticed the spelling before, as there’s regular its vs. it’s abuse here amongst other transgressions (sorry to talk about you in plain view here, Jane.)

    But the posts are readable and the information’s laid out cleanly and substantively, so alleging she’s a “fucking moron” for using “hella” or saying she’s not to be taken seriously after misspelling a woman’s last name is just being a pissy pedant.

    There are nice ways to point out mistakes.

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  18. Michelle
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 15:20:16

    @Ridley-um, you did realize I was being sarcastic, didn’t you?

    I just kind of find it weird to have a man tell Jane and all that they are being sexist by the fact they are celebrating have a place where women can discuss romance in a serious matter.

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  19. Ridley
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 15:27:53

    @Michelle:

    I was agreeing with you in a commiserating sort of way. It was meant as a “I know, right?” Make sense?

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  20. Jane
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 15:33:03

    @Michelle Thank you for pointing out it was the ff. If you can’t guess Woolf is just not someone with whom I am familiar.

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  21. Eric Selinger
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 15:41:28

    @Mari

    I don’t know exactly what you mean by “romance as it’s written for readers,” but I’m happy to tell you my agendas.

    First, since I like romance novels and find them interesting to think about, I’d like to talk about them and teach them in classes and generally share my enthusiasm. That’s what I’ve done for years with love poetry, and have just started doing with Bollywood movies. Nothing different where romance is concerned. Just doing what an English professor ought to do, or one of those things, anyway.

    My second agenda is to give some academic support to my students who are already romance readers, but who’ve been taught that this is something to hide or be ashamed of, and to undercut the snobbery of the students who aren’t, by showing them how interesting and enjoyable the novels I teach actually are. Some of the latter change their minds, and go on to be romance readers, others don’t, but at least they stop being so dismissive. As a result, my colleagues in creative writing have learned that they can’t casually use romance as the despised Other in their workshops anymore. Too many folks now have taken my classes, and they speak up.

    My final agenda item–shared with Sarah Frantz–was to build a “cultural bandwagon” so that other folks could jump onto it. When I started working on romance, back in 2005, I felt quite isolated. Hence my work with Sarah and Laura Vivanco and others on the romancescholar listserv, Teach Me Tonight, the re-started PCA romance area, the conferences, the forthcoming journal, the co-edited anthologies of essays, IASPR, etc. Not trying to make the books better, which academic attention can’t do. Definitely trying to make the academic attention itself better, though, and in the process, to make some friends who also love these books.

    I like your agenda, RRRJessica! Any grants around for that?

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  22. katie
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 15:47:01

    Also, the essay is, A Room Of One’s Own, not A Room Of Her Own. Second paragraph. But no matter. It fits the rest of the mistakes. :)

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  23. Michelle
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 15:54:53

    @Ridley-no problem-I was just being slow. I blame it on too much sun. I was out planting some annuals.

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  24. Eric Selinger
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 15:59:07

    “There is also more than a tinge of sexism in the discussion … as if males can neither read it with enjoyment nor truly understand the ins and outs of the concept of romance.”

    You know, Dick, that hasn’t been my experience. Never had anyone doubt that I could read romance with enjoyment or understand the concept. Quite the contrary–I’ve found the community quite welcoming, and when they’ve had male readers post about novels at the SBTB blog, I haven’t seen sexism in the responses. (Some wariness of why it should matter what a male reader thinks, but that strikes me as a perfectly valid question to raise.)

    In short, I’ve never seen a “no boys allowed” sign on the door to that “room of our own.”

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  25. Chicklet
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 15:59:29

    I thought this was an interesting post, and I would enjoy more posts like it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with analyzing popular culture from an academic standpoint, and if someone doesn’t want to read it, they can scroll on by.

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  26. Ridley
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 16:03:16

    @Eric Selinger:

    IIRC, the guest reviewer Doc Turtle over at Smart Bitches was male and his reviews are hugely popular.

    I’ve never seen the “no boys allowed” sign either.

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  27. Jane
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 16:07:36

    @katie Thank you for your corrections. I am always willing to correct my errors.

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  28. Jayashree
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 16:43:51

    I’m a long time romance reader who went to grad school to study Shakespeare and then switched to writing on popular romance once I realized that’s where my real interests–academic and personal–lay. In 2002, no one really knew how to help me in the field, though many professors were kind. I went on to write my dissertation on romance with no hope or agenda of bagging an academic position. I can attest to the fact that no university sees romance fiction as the hot new thing or its researchers as must-haves in academic departments.

    I wrote on the genre for the pleasure of it and I continue to read and do analytical work on it so I learn more about its subtleties. I go to conferences so I have a chance to discuss its strengths and weaknesses with other readers who may challenge my views or assist my reading. If there is a bandwagon, I’m really happy to join it. Where there is a room, I’m humbled to be allowed into that space.

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  29. Deb
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 16:55:34

    As authors have their own distinctive voices, so too do blogs, discussion boards and the like. I have been reading and commenting both here and at SmartBitches. I have found a great balance with both. Humor on the one hand and more serious discussion here. Nice blend.

    @Dick, I think you'd find dissenters on any blog, board, etc. regardless of discussion. At the current time, Apple “FanBoys” and Apple “Haters” are fighting it out on the tech boards. Wade into the discussion at your own peril. Each side would eat the other's childhood dreams if they could.

    Looking back at the required reading I have done in the past, I realized not one course required any Austen work. I did read Ethan Fromme, which was the only novel with romantic elements required. Of course I also had to read Moby Dick, which I hated with a passion which might ignite my hoo haa at the thought. Having academia finally recognizing that this genre is “worthy” of study, opens the door for more varied reading and acceptance.

    A local indy bookstore closed recently. They did not have a romance section, few romance titles in general fiction. No Harlequin at all. Not worthy of shelve space I guess. It may have happened anyway, but to not have the biggest selling genre available, certainly helped the demise along.

    Yes, A Room of Our Own (or whatever the title is), is necessary if you enjoy spending time with like minded people.

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  30. Janine
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 19:18:04

    I’m going to do a novel thing and answer the questions at the end of the post! :)

    I ask you, is the virtual community a room of one's own as envisioned by Woolf?

    I actually haven’t read the Woolf essay (*hangs head in shame*) and as a female writer, I really should. I just found it here but until I read it, I probably shouldn’t answer this question.

    What do you think are the positives of the virtual community?

    The biggest positive for me is that through it, I’ve met so many other readers who share my love for the genre, who have recommended great books to me, and who have discussed various aspects of the books with me. It’s a source of social support and a critical, engaged celebration of the genre.

    How can it be healthier? Stronger? What makes it weak? Has it reached its zenith? Where do you see it next year? In five years? Ten? What would you like to see changed?

    I think it could be healthier if we were all less defensive and more willing to give each other the benefit of the doubt. Of course, that is easier said than done. I myself have sometimes been defensive, so I’m not excluding myself here.

    IMO the way the genre has often been viewed by some people as the dregs of literature has made it harder for us readers to admit that we love to read romance. The romance community has provided mutliple safe spaces in which it is easy to share in that love. But because of the ongoing criticism in the mainstream press and in other places, readers and authors can get defensive, even when criticism is coming from within the community itself. I would love to see that defensiveness lessened, all around.

    It is hard to know if the community has reached its zenith but I would guess not.

    I don’t know where it will be in five or ten years — that may depend on factors like where the publishing industry is and where internet-based technologies are.

    What do you like about the current iteration?

    I like that there are so many lively discussions going on. I like that there are so many intelligent people in the community whose minds are engaged. I also like that there are so many good books coming out these days. This is a credit not just to the blogosphere but also to the message boards and listserves that have been around longer, and to the newer social media as well.

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  31. Christine Rimmer
    Apr 07, 2010 @ 07:42:13

    I read all the comments, but maybe not closely enough. Did anyone mention DANGEROUS MEN AND ADVENTUROUS WOMEN? Came out back in the early nineties, essays by romance writers on the appeal of romance, edited by JAK from the University of Pennsylvania Press. Loved that book. Talk about, er, seminal…

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  32. dick
    Apr 07, 2010 @ 08:55:39

    @Ms. Franz–
    I don’t know who coined the phrase, but the oft-repeated dictum that romance is by, for, and about women, pretty well excludes males. It’s true, of course, that experience often colors reactions, and, had I a nickel for every time I’ve been told “it’s female thing” when speaking of romance, I’d not have to worry about the market. But, actually, my comment had to do only with the post we’re all responding to.
    As to most things being worthy of academic attention, I would agree only with a “perhaps.” But being worthy of and benefitting from are different things and I don’t think all things benefit from academic attention. Even the “greats” of the canon aresometimes damaged rather than benefitted by it. Often benign neglect serves both the academy and the object of attention better.
    And, you know, is a bit of defensiveness on my part so difficult to understand? Male readers of romance, as you point out, are a far smaller proportion of the population of romance readers than are the females and just might feel a bit defensive. But a gentleman couched in the prevailing ambiance of historical romance would never tell a lady she was being rude, even if she were.

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  33. Joan/SarahF
    Apr 07, 2010 @ 09:16:52

    @dick: It’s much more effective to call someone rude when you get their name right. Makes them think you’re actually paying attention.

    I think you need to start practicing something that has been shown to be a typically female technique of communication. It gets us into a lot of trouble with men like you who don’t do it, but it also makes us sound like less of a…oh, that’s right, a sandy twat. It’s an insertion of a word or two, here and there: I think, I feel, In my opinion.

    So, for example: “In my opinion, [e]ven the “greats” of the canon are sometimes damaged rather than benefitted [sic] by it. I think that [o]ften benign neglect serves both the academy and the object of attention better.” Because *I think* you’re absolutely wrong. But that’s MY opinion and I know other people — you included, obviously — think differently.

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  34. Christine Rimmer
    Apr 07, 2010 @ 11:08:22

    Jane, back to your question, no, online communities are not the “room of one’s own.” The room of one’s own is the physical space to create without interruptions. Woolf posits that women, as keepers of the hearth, are expected to be available at all times to the various family members. They do not, like the “master” of the house, get to go into their study and shut the door and expect to be left alone. And if they haven’t created great literature (up to Woolf’s time), it is not about their lack of ability, it’s simply about the lack of space and silence.

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  35. katie
    Apr 07, 2010 @ 18:09:22

    Dick responded with grace and intelligence, which zipped over the head of “the academic”. This is how this blog deals with disagreement. Without grace or intelligence. Good for you.

    ReplyReply

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