deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I'm so pleased! New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction: Critical Essays will be out imminently.

Despite the prejudices of critics, popular romance fiction remains a complex, dynamic genre. It consistently maintains the largest market share in the American publishing industry, even as it welcomes new subgenres like queer and BDSM romance. Digital publishing originated in erotic romance, and savvy on-line communities have exploded myths about the genre’s readership. Romance scholarship now reflects this diversity, transformed by interdisciplinary scrutiny, new critical approaches, and an unprecedented international dialogue between authors, scholars, and fans. These eighteen essays investigate individual romance novels, authors, and websites, rethink the genre’s history, and explore its interplay of convention and originality. By offering new twists in enduring debates, this collection inspires further inquiry into the emerging field of popular romance studies.


One of those essays is by me: '“Why Would Any Woman Want to Read Such Stories?”: The Distinctions Between Genre Romances and Slash Fiction'. This essay comes from a paper that began six years ago as a conference paper helped on by Kristina Busse, and I'm so happy to see it reaching this new milestone. So much thanks to Kristina, and to Eric Selinger and Sarah Frantz, for helping me to get it this far. Order from your local indie bookstore or order from Amazon.
deborah: The management regrets that it was unable to find a Gnomic Utterance that was suitably irrelevant. (gnomic)
On my private list labeled "really? I wanted my coworkers and colleagues to know these things about me?" is that I apparently write parody romance well enough to win ArchivesNext's hilarious archivist romance contest in the "Cold-Hearted Career Woman" category. Thanks so much for running the contest, Kate and the panel of intrepid judges!

On an entirely different note, the Archivist of the United States just posted "How to Be a Smooth Criminal", archival patent secrets of Michael Jackson's dance moves. Archives are awesome, yo.

And Karen Hellekson over at the Transformative Works and Cultures symposium posts about "Persistence and DOIs, addressing the reasons why one could want to use an external persistent URL provider but the difficulties one can run into when doing so. Thought-provoking.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
How much time do I spend singing the praises of interlibrary loan? Because of ILL, my coworkers and I are currently passing around the marvelous Protected by the Prince, an absolutely terrible Harlequin about the Prince of Lusitanalpsvillia (or something) and a mousy, bespectacled archivist.

This LOLcats version of the book (irritatingly lacking alt text; come on, people, get with the program) is actually a pretty accurate rendition of the plot, and possibly better written. ArchivesNext is running a hilarious quiz/contest about the book and its premise.

ROFLMAO.

Edited to add: Rebecca at Derangement and Description, creator of the LOLcats comic, is going to be adding transcript or some kind of alt. Given that I rather gracelessly snarked in public instead of privately asking her to add alternative text, this is my public apology and recognition of her coolness.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Fillyjonk is spot-on in her analysis of Twilight and a new study about women who watch romantic comedies, and I'm not just saying that because she's name-dropping [livejournal.com profile] diceytillerman. Her essay reminds me of nothing so much as Herbert Kohl's "Should We Burn Babar?" in his book of the same name. Kohl angsts for some time about protecting his young daughters from the sexism of Barbie and the colonialist racism of Babar, and finally comes to the conclusion that he shouldn't, although he should talk about his concerns with his children and provide them with lots of alternative media. And lo and behold, the kids grow up okay. Not undamaged, but okay. The mass market romances I consumed like oxygen as a preteen absolutely contributed to some of the dysfunctions of my adolescent sexuality. But on the other hand, how many teenage girls don't have dysfunctions when it comes to romance and sex? Any?

Fact: Every accusation of misogyny levelled at the Twilight series is accurate. Seriously. The gender politics of those books are appalling.
Fact: I still enjoyed them (well, the first few), and would have adored them at 12.
Fact: That's okay.

No book is every book. Let me repeat that, because I cannot say it often enough: No book is every book. How about another one: The best remedy for bad speech is more speech. If you want readers to get strong female role models, you're going to need to give them a lot of books: books with strong femme girls and books with strong butch girls, books with strong girls and books with strong boys, books with strong assimilated girls of color and books with strong unassimilated girls of color. You need to let them read crappy books and mediocre books and great books. If you don't let them read books with negative gender roles, you aren't just cutting out Twilight, you are cutting out Speaker for the Dead, all of the later Murry-O'Keeffe books, Zelazny's Amber universe. If you cut out media which occasionally have reactionary sex and gender roles, you have to rule out Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

And let's not even get started talking about applying these same rules to sexuality, class, or race.

We live in an imperfect world, and a lot of fantastic media are products of our imperfect world. All we can do is the best that we can do.

(Although a corollary to this is we shouldn't be ashamed of admitting when some of our favorite books, television shows, or movies are sexist or racist. Imperfect world, remember? The only way to win this fight is not to ban the sexist and racist media, but to shine a light on the problems. It doesn't make me love Casablanca any less to acknowledge that "You'll have to do the thinking for both of us" is not particularly a feminist sentiment. But to deny the inherent sexism of the movie, or to brush it off by saying "it makes sense for those characters!" or "why can't you just enjoy it!" or "it's historically accurate!" makes the infection that much more insidious. The way you love these texts and still grown-up okay is by recognizing what's wrong with them and love them anyway. But the recognition is vital.)
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
First the blog rec: New YA author Kristin Cashore, author of the forthcoming YA fantasy Graceling, has written a fabulous post on an author's perspective of trying to do right by body image issues while still being true to the characters and stories in her head. How can you go wrong with a blog post which climaxes "AARRGGHHH! AT THIS RATE I WILL NEVER SAVE THE WORLD!!!"? Answer: you can't.

Secondly, a (half-assed) book review: Lisa Fletcher's brand-new Historical Romance Fiction: Heterosexuality and Performativity (Tasmania: Ashgate. 2008) First I want to give a major caveat, which is that I read this book in a hurry because it is an overdue ILL book, and even though I'm going to read it again I can't renew it right now. In fact, given that set of circumstances I feel so uncomfortable about writing any of my negative impressions I'm just going to hold off on them right now. When you read a book at this pace, I don't think initial discombobulation should count for anything.

The text's project is to show how performativity (through speech acts and the performance of gender) in historical romance novels, crossing the boundaries from "literary" to "popular" (a boundary Fletcher complicates by pointing out the high sales figures of so-called literary romances such as Possession), reinforces heterosexual norms. In a manner which I admit I didn't quite follow given my hyper-quick reading, she discusses the performance of gender through cross-dressed heroes and heroines and relates it to Judith Butler's performance of gender, paying special attention to Butler's insistence that gender performativity is not a choice that can be turned on or off at will.

One thing I found interesting in an initial misreading I gave to a passage in this text is a dichotomy I thought at first was being constructed: the essential statement of the heterosexual romance is the explicit statement of love, and the essential statement of the homosexual romance is coming out of the closet. That isn't actually what she was saying -- she was leaning towards the heterosexual declaration of love as a possible statement from the closet itself (it's complicated, and I'm going to point back to my quick reading as an excuse for not getting into it here) -- but I think I prefer my initial misreading. It's obviously incredibly flawed; for one thing, it rules out any homosexual romance that doesn't begin in the closet. But I feel like I have something there that I want to run with, and see where it goes.

I can't really say more about it it; with such a brief read I'm not sure if the book had a more overarching takeaway than what I've already stated. But there's definitely food for thought in there.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
There's a lot of been meaning to post about in my far-too-busy life:

  • There's my new position as review editor for the newly forming, Gold Open Access, peer reviewed journal Transformative Works and Cultures. And by the way, yay!

  • There is the research I have been doing into romance fiction and the wonderfully supportive blogging and mailing list community of other academics doing that research.

  • There's the sequel I recently reviewed where I realized that the sentiments of my negative review of book one had been given to a minor villain of book two, in a dubious but solidly entertaining form of fame.



But what I find I am primarily focused on right now is being happy at work. People keep offered me all these fabulous opportunities which I am turning down -- inviting me to present at conference panels, asking me to write papers, encouraging me to join committees. I know I'm turning down opportunities to make a bigger deal of myself in my career or my various academic avocations. Yet I find I don't care. I really like my manager, and I like my coworkers, and I like my commute. I'm not married to my day-to-day job tasks but that's really not a problem for me. I know what I'm doing is somewhat important, and if the actual tasks aren't overwhelmingly fulfilling, the environment I'm doing them in is so comfortable that I'm perfectly happy.

This is odd for me. I spent a long time wanting to Be Somebody. I read a lot of other librarian, archivist, and Library 2.0 blogs which are (quite reasonably) concerned with conferences and presentations and career building and networking at all of those things that I know are really important. And if I ever had any aspirations as a career academic, than all of the academic connections that I'm making would absolutely matter more than they do to me right now.

For right now I have a low-intensity job with people I like and respect in an interesting academic environment, and that's enough for me. Well, that and my thoroughly overloaded plate of extracurriculars.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I've been far too overwhelmed to post here recently, or even to read my blogs, and for that I feel immensely guilty. I've been doing so much: getting settled in my new job at Tufts Digital Collections and Archives, working on my research on romance fiction, working (far too little) on the project I'm doing with Rebecca Rabinowitz on subversive children's literature.

I've also been talking with Alan McKee in preparation for our installation of Henry Jenkins' fangirl/fanboy detente. That has been an absolute joy. It's so wonderful whenever you find another scholar who delights in examining the same kinds of questions that you do. Both of us have found such pleasure in talking about media fandom, and I confess it has been from both a scholarly perspective and a fan perspective. This, of course, is the most wonderful part about being an acafan; the shameless delight in the subjects of our study.

I wonder how much further I would have gotten in children's literature scholarship if the academic blogging community had existed 10 years ago. Would I have made further inroads there? I've made such friends in media and fan scholarship, real genuine friends, people I love and care for -- and I suspect I will be making similar friends in romance scholarship, based on what I've seen of that community. As an independent scholar, it is so discouraging to have no infrastructure for my fields of study. And it's not like I'm not busy, it's not like I'm not doing this scholarship in my spare time after work and dinner and gardening and feeding the cats. If it weren't for the social network of wonderful people who share my interests, I don't know if I would be able to keep it up.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
One of the annoying side effects of switching jobs is that I'm going to have to return all my library books -- and several of them have been checked out as research for my current scholarship. When I started taking notes on these books so I would remember which ones I wanted to go back to, it occurred to me that blogging some form of my brief notes wouldn't hurt. So over the next couple of weeks I will be writing short annotations for ... *counts pile* ... 12 books. Don't worry, I'll put them all behind cut tags.

Dixon, jay. The Romance Fiction of Mills & Boon, 1909-1990s. London ;: Philadelphia : UCL Press, 1999. )
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