Friday, June 20, 2014

Update from the 2014 IASPR Conference

Jodi McAlister's written up a report on the first day of the conference. Here's a taster:
Angela Toscano looked at ancient Greek romance (appropriate, given the conference’s setting!) The Ethiopian Story and read it against twentieth century romance The Windflower, painting a fascinating picture of the way the romance has evolved from being what she called a “romance of adventure” to a “romance of courtship”, the two texts featuring similar tropes but entirely different story arcs. One point she made that I really liked was that romance is in many senses the opposite of epic – while epic is largely concerned with the death of heroes, romance is in many ways about rebirth.

Lesley Ann Smith discussed the theories that many romance writers are familiar with and draw upon when constructing their novels, including Kim Hudson’s notion of the 13-beat virgin’s archetypal journey [...]. This led to a very interesting discussion about the way academic attempts to codify or define the romance are sometimes appropriated as guidelines – for instance, Pamela Regis’ eight elements of the romance novel (from A Natural History of the Romance Novel) being drawn upon by writers in order to better structure their novel. This was a crossover between academia and creative practice that I hadn’t really thought about before – I’d love to know how/if/to what extent authors use scholarly work when they write!

One paper that might be particularly ripe for this kind of mobilisation in the future is Catherine Roach’s, who proposed another alternative (but not incompatible) nine elements for understanding the romance novel, concerned with deep structural priorities – that is, the core claims romance makes about love – rather than formal plot features. This was fascinating and nuanced and I don’t have time to reproduce her argument here (especially because it’s part of a book she has coming out next year which I will definitely be reading), but one claim she made that really resonated with me is that romance is essentially about the word “love” as a verb – that the romance story can be summed up as “find your true love and live happily ever after”.
You can read the rest here.


  1. I find very interesting that mention about the 'Aethiopica'. When thinking about the History of love stories, I always remember Hellenistic romance as the first romances.
    Usually people look into the History of Literature searching for love stories that could be considered 'romance novels from the past' and don't go farther into the past than 'Pamela'.

  2. I think you'll like the article I've linked to in today's post. I've written about the Greek romances at my personal blog.