From Eloisa: Buongiorno Bellas! People are always expecting me (as a romance writer who’s an academic) to defend the genre of romance whenever I put on my professor-hat.
I’m not going to do that, any more than I would defend the genre of plays written for boy actors around 1608, the subject of my research as a professor. I don’t think either genre needs defending.
People enjoy romances, just as they enjoyed boys’ plays (Hamlet himself expressed a little anxiety about the fact that boys’ plays were more popular than adult plays). For that reason alone, romances are fascinating objects of study that need no defending.
For example, a burst of paranormal romances featuring heroines able to control the weather followed hurricane Katrina. Some of those books were very well written; some were less carefully written; some were probably terrible. But all of them are tremendously interesting, from an academic point of view.
The tough thing is trying to figure out what to say about a trend like that. Did readers feel more powerful in the face of bad weather after reading these romances? I think 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. But it is clear that the Katrina-esque romances registered a deep strain of anxiety in current culture.
For the past two years I have written a column on romance for BN.com's Barnes & Noble Review, which has resulted in virtually every published romance being sent to my house each month. One trend I’ve noticed lately? Angels. To be more specific, heroes who are fallen angels. J. R. Ward’s latest book, "Covet," joins a throng of angelic men.
So what’s that about? What is happening in our culture that we like to read/think/dream about angels, fallen or otherwise?
***TOMORROW: Back 2 School Week 2: Scholars on Romance Continues with the gregarious gray matter behind RomanceUniversity.org, carrying on in the longstanding tradition of romance authors and industry professionals educating up-and-comers -- and readers taking part in the tutelage!