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About the Conference

Keynote speakers:


What has the story of love been? Where is it headed? How does popular culture help shape the experience of romantic love—and how has popular romance culture been changed, in its turn, by broader social, political, economic, and technological developments?

campussummer_big For its sixth international conference, the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance featured papers on romantic love and its representations in popular media, now and in the past, from anywhere in the world.

We define “popular romance culture” broadly to include not only fictional forms (novels, films, TV shows, pop music, fan fiction, popular poetry, etc.), but also didactic material (advice columns, dating manuals, newspaper debates about love or marriage “in crisis”), and the “ideal-typical” representations deployed by advertising.

For this conference, we highlighted in papers on traditions of love and its popular representations (local and regional traditions, historical traditions, religious traditions, etc.), on the trajectories that carry popular romance culture across boundaries of region, period, genre, or medium, and on individual instances of popular romance culture which might illuminate those broader traditions and trajectories. We also sought out work on older forms of popular romance (classical, medieval, early modern, etc.) and on love and its representations in Asian, African, Middle Eastern, and Latin American popular cultures. Finally, we looked for proposals on popular romance culture in the classroom and in libraries: course designs, questions of pedagogy, archival collections and concerns, etc.

campusSpringAs a multi-disciplinary conference, presenters included representatives from interdisciplinary fields such as Relationship Science, Love Studies, and the History of Emotions, as well work by scholars in history, anthropology, literary studies, psychology, sociology, neurobiology, queer theory, and cultural studies. We heard from romance authors, industry professionals, and independent scholars.


Conference Presentations


  • “Epistemes and Cultural Dominants: What Popular Romance Novels’ Heroes and Heroines Tell Us About Postmodernity”
    Jayashree Kamble (Assistant Professor of English, City University of New York)
  • “Radioactive Love: Mapping Desire from Agrabah to Abbottabad”
    Amira Jarmakani (Women’s Studies, San Diego State University)


Featured Event

  • Love Between the Covers
    Screening and Q&A with filmmaker Laurie Kahn


Sex, Gender, and Romance:

  • “Consuming Passions: a queer reading of the popular romance genre through the concept of masturbation”
    Elin Abrahamsson (Stockholm University, Sweden)
  • “Keeping It Classy: Studying Sex and Romance”
    Katherine Morrissey (Rochester Institute of Technology, New York)
  • “Diversity in Lesbian Romance Fiction: The Impact of Gender and Race on Marketing and Sales”
    Len Barot (Bold Strokes Books, New York)


The Representation of History in Romance:

  • “Two Nerdy History Girls: Historical Romance Novelists as Teachers of History”
    Heather Schell (George Washington University, Washington D.C.)
  • “Writing about History and Becoming Part of the Historical Record: Romance Writers’ Use of Archives and Archival Collections Documenting Popular Romance”
    Caryn Radick (Rutgers University, New Jersey)
  • “Romance as Propaganda: White Fantasy of Indian Love in the 19th-century ‘Civilize the American Indian’ Movement”
    Jessica Matthews (George Mason University, Virginia)


Sociological Perspectives on Romance:

  • “Love at face value: Popular romance and the future of Critical Love Studies”
    Michael Gratzke (University of Hull, UK)
  • “Phenomenology of Romantic Love”
    Levan Wee (University of Melbourne, Australia)
  • “Experiences, Tensions and Romantic Love Ideals on Chilean Young Adults”
    Carolina Aspillaga (Universidad del Desarrello, University of Chile)


Love on TV:

  • “‘The Remarkable Woman Deserves a True Love’—the Portrayal of a Relationship between an Older Woman and a Younger Man in Chinese Media”
    Huike Wen (Willamette University, Oregon)
  • “The Laws of Love, According to TV’s The Bachelor”
    Katlyn Williams (University of Iowa)


Spaces & Places for Romance:

  • “‘Raging Seas and Cloudy Skies’: Macro to Meso Level Psychosemantic Movement in Stephanie Laurens’ Black Cobra Quartet” 
    Javaria Farooqui (Institute of Information Technology, Lahore, Pakistan)
  • “Love in the Last Frontier: An Analysis of Alaskan Romance Novels”
    Erin Young (SUNY Empire State College, New York)
  • “Hungry Lovers: An Appetizer of Selected Canadian Literature”
    Estella C. Kuchta (University of British Columbia, Vancouver)


Mythic & Religious Frames for Love:

  • “‘The Sweetest Story Ever Told’: ‘Cinderella’ as American Dream Narrative”
    Margot Blankier (Trinity College, Dublin)
  • “Blurring the Lines: Irish mythology and symbolism in Nora Roberts’ The Cousin O’Dwyer’s Trilogy”
    Pavla Stefanska (Masavyk University, Czech Republic)
  • “‘Use Heart in Your Search’: Erotic Faith, the Heart Sutra, and the Allusive Art of My Beautiful Enemy”
    Eric Murphy Selinger (DePaul University, Chicago)


Structures and Theories of Romance:

  • “Understanding the Formula”
    Lesley Ann Smith (Curtin University, Australia)
  • “Love and the American Dream in Popular Romance”
    Maryan Wherry (Independent Scholar & Writer, Quad-Cities, Illinois)
  • “Creating the Sense of an Ending in Urban Fantasy”
    Maria Ramos-Garcia (South Dakota State University)


Exotic Others and Lovers:

  • “‘Shipping magnates and oil sheikhs’: Decoding the exotic hero in ‘Harlequin Presents’ romance novels, 2000-2015”
    Amy Burge (Edinburgh University, Scotland)
  • “Triangulating Desire: Navigating Islamland, Arabiastan, and Romancelandia in Suzanne Brockmann’s Into the Night”
    Kecia Ali (Boston University)
  • “When Vampires Meet Clockwork: Fantasy Creatures in Steampunk Romance”
    Sarah Ficke (Marymount University, Virginia)


Historical Perspectives on Romance:

  • “Romance Beginnings”
    Scott Black (University of Utah)
  • “Medieval Romance”
    Amanda Bohne (University of Notre Dame, Indiana)
  • “An Excessive Enquiry: Metonymy and Misrecognition in Haywood’s Love in Excess”
    Angela Toscano (University of Iowa)


Intercultural & Interracial Romance:

  • “Intercultural and interlingual relations in a corpus of popular romance fiction novels”
    Maria-Isabel González-Cruz (Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain)
  • “Playing Tricks: Neoliberalism, Postfeminism, and Postraciality in Theresa Romain’s Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress”
    Mallory Jagodzinski (Bowling Green State University, Ohio)
  • “When a Jew loves a Nazi: Romance novels and the Holocaust”
    Hsu-Ming Teo (Macquarie University, Australia)