In my first BN.com post about romance fiction  – just before I presented at the Princeton romance scholarship conference -- I wrote of how I’d rethought my position on waving the “We’ve got authors from the Ivies” flag in front of folks who don’t read or know much about romance, especially academics and literati.  I’d begun to feel doing so baldly suggests romance authors whom attended Really Good Schools somehow raise up the collective value of the genre and its readers. 

  Yet I've certainly tossed around the “smart women read and write romance” line. Sure, I've written/said it to convey pride in the quality of genre content/fan base.  But sometimes using it it simply was about trying to keep intact my Brainy Girl self image after admitting affection for romance books -- sometimes to other romance fans. But when we set up a kind of hierarchy of writers/readers based on perceived intellect, it feels to me as though we’re suggesting romance is okay now because smarty pantses exist who write/read it.  And I wonder whether it hasn’t helped spawn that troubling mantra of “Romance is so much more sophisticated than it used to be.”

None of this negates the facts that Very Good Schools are vitally important and turn out great thinkers/doers – and their English Departments traditionally don't allow romance fiction near the lowest rungs of their heirarchies of literary legitimacy. It’s for those reasons you should care a Very Great Deal about this stunning news:

 

Bestselling romance authors Cara Elliott and Lauren Willig have broken the Ivy barrier with “Reading the Regency Romance,” the romance-fiction course they created and will teach in January at their alma mater, Yale University. It’s a first in the Ivy League!

 

Their seminar begins with Jane Austen’s “Northanger Abbey,” moves through Georgette Heyer and Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, looks at changing attitudes towards sexuality and heroism in a variety of authors over a thirty-year time span, then continues through Regency paranormals to chick-lit.

 

Elliott and Willig believe the panel of Yale faculty and students to whom they presented their class proposal for acceptance came away thinking of romance as less of, as Willig puts it, “just a monolith known as ‘Oh, romance novels,” and instead, a serious literary genre and collection of sub-genres, “each with its own traditions and trajectory.”

Elliott’s and Willig’s ground-breaking course places Yale and the Ivy League among universities and colleges in the United States and worldwide already offering courses in romance fiction.

 

Why do you think it’s important that Elliott and Willig are teaching a course in the Ivy League? What are some of your favorite novels of Elliott (writing as Andrea Pickens) or Willig (Pink Carnation series)?

Cara Elliott’s new Circle of Sin trilogy debuts in March '10 with “To Sin with a Scoundrel  .” Lauren Willig’s latest Pink Carnation series novel, “The Betrayal of the Blood Lily,” drops in January '10.

Comments
by PrincessBumblebee on ‎12-21-2009 01:54 PM

Hey, QB! I think it's awesome that we have such studies going on. I mean, romance novels in all it's forms is at the head of the industry and ALWAYS sells, even in bad economic times like now! I think that something that so many people turn to for comfort or as an escape at the end of a hectic day should get a study of why it appeals so much to readers. It certainly making an impact on people's lives and culture, so studying it would be important, I think. Love it or hate it, I think studying it is important. On that note, I'm going home and studying some on my own, hehe.

by Moderator Melanie_Murray on ‎12-21-2009 04:48 PM

We'll be graced with a visit from Lauren in January at Romantic Reads, and I couldn't be more excited. I'm a huge fan of the Pink Carnation series and can't wait to pick her brain about it.

 

And now I can pick her brain about Yale and this course is going, too!

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎12-21-2009 11:20 PM

Lauren has some of the most beautiful book covers I've seen. I read her first book and have several others in my TBR pile. I'm looking forward to reading Cara's book. What I'm trying to figure out is where these two find the time to write all their books and develop this course,too!

by 1lovealways on ‎12-22-2009 02:48 AM

Hi Everyone!

 

It's about time romance found some appreciation.  Especially gratifying is knowing that it has finally been accepted as a subject to be taught in such prestigious confines.  I'm thrilled!  I've been reading them for years and have always loved them.  Certainly it would seem that something that makes the most money in the book industry and is still prevailing in this economy should have some kind of consideration. 

 

Not everyone can write one and not everyone is good at writing them.  Obviously, these colleges and universities have taken notice of the fact that there is definitely something worth presenting to their students.   There is a lot more to a romance novel that just "I love you" to be considered.  There is an art to romance writing as to writing any novel of any other genre.  Now that the world of the Ivy League institutions have gotten onboard, it says a lot about what we've always known.  They are worth every minute that we spend reading them and every dollar we spend buying them.

 

It has always been apparent ... at least to those of us who love reading romance and those writing it, that there was something to it's appeal.  With so many people buying romances and writing them, it's hard to believe it has taken this long to get a foot in the door.   It has taken this long to say finally see, romance is as worthy as any other genre  to be studied. Romance ... you're finally getting your well deserved KUDOS!  Whoo hoo!  :smileyhappy:

by Lisa_Kroener on ‎12-22-2009 08:35 AM

Okay, German girl who never understands anything doesn't understand that, either: What's that "Ivy League"-thing? I mean, having read the article I think I understood what it means but why is it called like that?

 

I haven't yet read anything by either of these lovely ladies but I already greatly admire them and appreciate what they do. I always thought romance novels were much more estimated and accepted in the States as they are in Europe/Germany (you at least have the feeling that they're considered less than other books, but maybe that's only because there simply almost aren't any European romance authors, so where should the love for the genre come from?) but from the things I always hear you saying I come to the conclusion that maybe it's not that different at all.

 

It's about time that people realize (and also accept!) what a wonderful thing romance novels are!

 

~LisaK

by Moderator Melanie_Murray on ‎12-22-2009 08:55 AM

Lisa, Ivy League refers to eight universities in the States. Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Brown, U of Penn, Cornell, Columbia, and Dartmouth.

by Lisa_Kroener on ‎12-22-2009 09:13 AM

Thanks Melanie! Now I've again learned something!

 

by Author Cara_Elliott on ‎12-23-2009 10:05 AM

Thanks, everyone for your enthusiastic support. Lauren and I are so excited by the student response. Our class is already oversubscribed, so it's wonderful to see the interest is there to look at historical romance in a serious way.

 

We look forward to reporting back here on our progress!