Monday News: Romance in the academy, 74 “essential books,” filmmaking and women of color, and SxSW proposal video
Why Can’t Romance Novels Get Any Love? – A good introductory piece in Smithsonian on the slow infiltration of genre Romance into the academy. Featuring a number of the Teach Me Tonight folks, the article surveys some of the work currently being done to promote the genre as both study-able and teachable as a legitimate area of literary and cultural studies. It also reminded me about the Popular Romance Project, which has kind of been off the radar lately. William Gleason, who teaches American Best Sellers at Princeton, draws a clear link between genre Romance and 19th C domestic literature:
“By the time we get to Nora Roberts, students are attuned to the ways that popular stories like Last of the Mohicans and Uncle Tom’s Cabin often place matters of the heart at their center, even if the love affairs of the central characters are thwarted or doomed,” says Gleason, who allows his students to vote on the final novel for the semester. In 2011, Fifty Shades of Grey was the resounding choice. “After these earlier novels, students have a better sense of what it means, culturally, for a narrative to permit love to flourish.”
Romance is one of the last fiction genres to find a place on college syllabi at a time when the academy seems to be welcoming serious scrutiny of everything from The Wizard of Oz to Beyonce and Miley Cyrus. And while there’s all the fervent intellectual wrestling of any academic discipline, these romance scholars are writing a post-feminist narrative in which the anti-romance second-wave feminism of the ’70s and ’80s is over, along with all the dissing and belittling that came with it. –Smithsonian Magazine
74 Essential Books for Your Personal Library: A List Curated by Female Creatives – The idea for this list came about when Open Culture published a list of “74 great works of literature” according to Jorge Luis Borges, and it became obvious that the list contained not one work by a woman author. So Lulu Nunn put the call out for another list, to wit:
I decided to put a suggestion to a group of international women writers, artists and curators, and we compiled our own list of 74 ‘great works of literature’ — one just as varied, loose and substantial as that of Borges, but made up solely of writers identifying as women or non-gender-binary. Over two days we amassed many suggestions, which I’ve now curated to form the list below. It’s not intended to invalidate the original, but rather to serve as an accompaniment to highlight and encourage a dialogue on gender imbalances in creative and intellectual realms, as well as to provide a balance by actively ‘equalising’ that of Jorge Luis Borges. –Open Culture
In ‘Appropriate Behavior’: What Does It Take for a Woman to Author Herself? – A very thoughtful piece about Desiree Akhavan’s debut film, Appropriate Behavior, and about the various narratives around the film and its filmmaker. Specifically, Bitch Flicks’ Dena Afrasiabi critiques the pattern by which female filmmakers, especially women of color, are defined relative to their white peers, which is both diminishing and limiting. Similarly, Akhavan’s film seems to critique the same kind of narrative pigeonholing, and the ways that limits self-authorship — of characters, of women in general, of women of color, of women of color filmmakers, etc. There are many implications here for genre Romance, both in regard to its lack of diversity, and how characters can control or be controlled by narrative structure.
Great artists locate themselves in a tradition. Most filmmakers, including Allen himself, are quick to name their biggest influences. But the above-mentioned comparisons point to something more than just the creation of a genealogy. They reek of a tokenism that only makes room for one successful woman at a time and that fosters acceptance for women of color by linking them to their white counterparts. This tokenism diminishes or even erases the nuances of these filmmakers’ distinct voices and minimizes the range and complexity of experiences they convey.
What’s more, to understand Appropriate Behavior as the bisexual Iranian version of someone else’s work would be to miss the point of the film entirely. While on the surface, the film is about a bisexual Iranian American coming to terms with a breakup and with the messiness of her sexuality, it’s really a film about identity, about what it means not to take the easy way out by shaving off or hiding the parts of yourself that don’t fit into a neat package. By failing, spectacularly, to fit, the film, like its main character, becomes something more than the sum of its seemingly discordant parts, something entirely of its own. –Bitch Flicks
WATCH THIS WOMAN INTERRUPT RYAN GOSLING AT SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST TO PROPOSE TO HER GIRLFRIEND – A sweet little disruption of the dominant heteronormative romance narrative. And that it happened during Ryan Gosling’s Q&A — and wasn’t even about or for him — makes it even better. –Fast Company
Hey, is the font better folks?
Hi, Jane. The bolded italics on the news page is definitely more readable. I’m still struggling with the regular font on the reviews, tho.
Oh, and I just noticed that the formatting/spacing on the comments seems to be better now. Things aren’t running into each other. Thx.
Oy. And I also just noticed these comments are on a post that’s almost a year old rather than this past Monday’s post. That’s what happens when I start to comment when I have insomnia.