BN Review columnist and NY Times bestseller Eloisa James isn't shy about defending romance. She just doesn't feel inclined to, any more than she'd take a stand for any other works she terms "fascinating objects of study." James -- a Fordham University English prof who specializes in Shakespearean plays written for boy actors, and who writes romance novels set in Georgian and Regency England -- would much rather talk romance scholarship with a twist.
That twist is trying not to make an error she feels some academics do when studying genre fiction like romance. Says James today in a guest post during RomanceBuyTheBook.com (RBTB) blog's "Scholars on Romance Week," "One mistake academics make is rushing to judgment as far as the effects of reading are concerned. For example, I do not believe that reading a romance about a Prince of Darkness type of hero makes a woman more likely to stay home with an abusive husband."
James is examining in her post today whether trends in romances correspond to certain real-life issues, or even natural disasters, and specifically, what's happening in our culture that makes us want to think, dream and, ultimately read about angels - fallen or otherwise.
Blogging being a vigorous medium, readers have begun responding to James' query, and their comments are excellent places for academics to look for clues about trends, as well as topics for study. Reader D Haupt suggests angels and paranormal characters appeal because, "Our world is in turmoil constantly and we (me) as individuals feel totally helpless to change anything so to cope I read outside the box."
Thinking "inside" the comment box, as it were, is a powerful place to begin discussions which enrich the connection between those who know an awful lot about romance simply because they read it, and academics who study it.
Yet we who love romance books aren't all about the reads - and the blog as intimacy- and community-building tool also is a way to hook us up with others who love the stuff of romance - like food! BN.com's new Book Clubs Food & Drink mod Allison Fishman is gathering folks today, asking us to dish up memories of the meal that literally changed our lives. Not the cookbook we like to page through with our fave merlot. Nor the recipe we trot out when we want to impress. But the actual tastes, setting, ambiance, friends or lovers present or missing and anything else that made the gustatory triumph or tragedy one you'll never forget.
There are plenty of unforgettable romance novel scenes that are memorable because of food; chocolate syrup and a Suzanne Brockmann novel instantly come to mind. But in real life - or at least in the digital town hall - it's always fun and educational to spend some time thinking inside the box.
How valuable is user-generated commentary to research or as fodder for research topics?
Please join Scholars on Romance Week at RBTB: 09.22 Eloisa James; 09.23 RomanceUniversity.org on the tradition of romance writers/industry educating unpublished authors; 09.25 Gwendolyn Pough of Syracuse Univ. on black women in romance.