The Fourth Annual International Conference on Popular Romance Studies: The Pleasures of Romance

York, United Kingdom
27-29 September, 2012

“Pleasure is continually disappointed, reduced, deflated, in favor of strong, noble values: Truth, Death, Progress, Struggle, Joy, etc. Its victorious rival is Desire: we are always being told about Desire, never about Pleasure.” — Roland Barthes

“I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.” — Oscar Wilde

About the Conference

Keynote Speaker: John Storey (Professor, University of Sunderland, Director of Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies)

Special Guests: Jane Lovering (Author) and Jenny Haddon (Romantic Novelists’ Association)

This conference asked one large question: What is the place of pleasure in popular romance? Popular romance—whether romance novels, romantic films, soap operas, fan fiction, advertisements, etc.—has long been both consumed and derided because of the pleasures they impart: pleasures of sentiment, pathos, comfort, arousal, satisfaction, identification. Conference presenters considered “pleasure” in popular romance texts and popular romance studies and asked the following questions:

  1. What is pleasure? To speak about pleasure is to work with a large concept and thus we must work toward defining pleasure and also how it relates specifically to popular romance. What theoretical avenues can we use to understand pleasure?
  2. How is pleasure represented in popular romance? How and why do characters experience pleasure? How is the characters’ pleasure connected with romantic love? How is the experience of pleasure in the text connected with the pleasure of consuming and/or viewing the text?
  3. What are the pleasures of the “text,” whether visual, cinematic, literary? If romance novels, romantic films, soap operas, etc., are “pleasurable,” where then does pleasure reside within the “text”? One might consider how the text itself describes the pleasure of the romantic experience and how textual characters experience pleasure in relation to romance.
  4. What are the pleasures of consuming a romantic text? How adequate are existing theoretical models, and what new research is available—from any field—that we might bring to bear on this question?
  5. How do we theorize the pleasure of viewing and being viewed? There is much to be said about scopophilia, voyeurism, exhibitionism, and hiding in popular romance, but how do we as consumers of popular romance understand and consider these experiences? What are the ethical and moral problems involved in consuming the pleasure of others through the texts of popular romance? How do we account for the differences between being seen and seeing?
  6. Who are the producers of the pleasurable romantic text? What creative industries produce romantic texts: film studios, television networks, advertising agencies, authors, publishers? How do they consider the pleasure of the consumer in their production of the text?


Conference Presentations

  • Love’s Best Habit: The Uses of Media in Romantic Relationships
    John Storey (University of Sunderland, UK)
    This paper critically examines how people use media when in romantic relationships: the use of media discourses and the use of media technologies. The main findings are based on analysis of forty-two discursive questionnaires and fourteen semi-structured interviews consisting of almost twenty hours of recorded material.


Special Guests
  • The Pleasures of Romance
    Jane Lovering, Author
  • Romantic Fiction in the UK: 50 Years of Constancy and Change
    Jenny Haddon (Romantic Novelists’ Association)


Romancing Sex, Kink, and Rape
  • Romancing the ‘Sexual Revolution’ in Mills & Boon novels, 1960s-1970s
    Lucy Brown (University of Sheffield, UK)
  • Don’t Panic: Empowerment through Sexual Submission in BDSM Romance Novels (and real life)
    Cecilia Tan (Independent Scholar, USA)
  • “Strange Stirrings”: Feminism, Rape, and Sexual Awakening in the 1970s Blockbuster Historical Romance
    Sarah S. G. Frantz (Fayetteville State University, USA)


Male Bodies / Female Desires
  • Queer Pleasure, Pornography and Romance in Participatory Culture: Slashing and Shipping the “Boy Who Lived”
    Emily Roach (Roehampton University, UK)
  • The [Little] Death of the Author: Producing Pleasure in Supernatural Slash Fic
    KT Torrey (Virginia Tech, USA)
  • Monstrously Romantic. Love in the Time of Popular Culture
    Anna Malinowska (University of Silesia, Poland)


Reading the RomCom: Europe, the US, and India
  • Pleasure and Spectatorship: A Bi-National Ethnographic Study of the Hollywood Romantic Comedy
    Betty Kaklamanidou (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece)
  • The romance film at the box office in five European countries, 2006 to 2010
    Nick Redfern (Independent Scholar, UK)
  • “John Hughes Did Not Direct My Life”: Romantic Comedy, (Post)Feminism and the Sexual Politics of Virginity in Easy A
    Katherine Farrimond (Newcastle University, UK)


North / South, East / West: Romance Across the Boundaries
  • Turkish Delight: The Appeal of Western Category Romance in the Middle East
    Heather Schell (George Washington University, USA)
  • The Appeal of the Erotic in Romance Novels in a Patriarchal Culture
    İrem Yerlikaya (Harlequin Publishing, Turkey)


Local Heroes, Heroines, and Pleasures: Popular Romance in Algeria, India, and Albania
  • Oral Formulaic Romantic Poetry in 19th C Algerian Literature
    Khadija Belfarhi (Annaba University, Algeria)
  • At the End of the Story; Pleasure, Morale and Confessions: Early Popular-Fictions and the Readership in Malayalam
    Ancy Bay P C (University of Hyderabad, India)
  • Lust vs. Doctored Love in Albanian Songs
    Artur Hadaj (Irana University, Albania)


Transforming Pleasure: Repetition, Emulation, and Appropriation
  • Chick Lit by Design: Intersections of Marketing and Gender in the Current Publishing Climate
    Brittany Cavallaro (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA)
  • Fifty Shades of Remix: The Shared Pleasures of Commercial and Fan Romances
    Katherine Morrissey Morrissey (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA)
  • First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage: The Pleasure in Normalizing the Subversive
    Bridget Kies (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA)


Africa and the Black Diaspora: Empire, Sex, and the Post-Colonial Remix
  • Happily Ever After in a Time of Empire: The Problem of Pleasure in Rupert Gray
    Sarah Ficke (Marymount University, USA)
  • Race, Responsibility, and Pleasure in the Romance Novel
    Julie Moody-Freeman (DePaul University, USA)
  • How to Recognize a Villianness: engaging archetypes and spotting soap-operators in Ghanian tales of true romance, obsession, and unrequited love
    Muff Anderson (University of South Africa)


Faerie Gang Bangs and Werewolf LTRs: Paranormal Romances as Narrative Spaces for Considering Gender and Sexual Roles
  • Submitting to Love?: Renegotiating the “Career Woman” Trope in Paranormal Romance
    Julia Voss (The Ohio State University, USA)
  • Slave to Calculation or Slave to Sensation?: The Paranormal Romance Heroine as Cold Rationalist and Sultry Voluptuary
    Tiffany Salter (The Ohio State University, USA)
  • Tied Up and Twisted: Male-centric Eroticized Violence in Paranormal Romance
    Sarah Maitland (University of Rhode Island, USA)


Readers, Reviewers, and the Pleasures of Resistance
  • The Pleasure of Hating a Scene: Undecidability and the Beating Scene in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander
    Jessica Matthews (George Mason University, USA)
  • “Prettily stamping her foot”: Popular Romance and the Pleasures of Evasion and Resistance
    Barbra Churchill (University of Alberta, Canada)
  • Pleasure in the Awful: Consumer Behaviour, Social Media and the Schadenfreude of Bad Reviews
    Chryssa Sharp (Lindenwood University, USA)


The Allures of Romance: Text, Paratext, and Real Life Love
  • Looking for “Something More”: Love, Sex and Female Pleasure in the Twenty-First Century Paranormal Romance
    Maria Ramos-Garcia (South Dakota State University)
  • Enhancing the Pleasure of Reading Romances
    Regina Künne (TU Branschweig, Germany)
  • From “Once upon a time..” to “..happily ever after,” and everything in between: the story of Romance as a Cultural Narrative depicted in real-life stories of “How we met”
    Natalie Poole (University of Alabama, USA)


Scandal! Abduction! Race! Convention and Transformation in Popular Romance
  • Cherishing the Chains of their Bondage: Reworking Abduction in Medieval and Modern English Romance
    Amy Burge (University of York, UK)
  • Pleasures of Scandal in Popular Romance: Dancing with Society, from Compromise to a Revolution of the Norm
    Adam Tang (Independent Scholar, Taiwan)
  • Sexual Pleasure and Christian Ethics in Beverly Jenkins’ Night Song and Night Hawk
    Rita B. Dandridge (Virginia State University, USA)


Problem Texts and New Approaches: Disaggregating “the Romance”
  • Pleasures of Popular Romance and Problem Romance: Lamia in the East and West
    Lu (Sally) Jin (The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China)
  • Happily Ever After? Disability and Cure in Popular Romance Novels
    Ria Cheyne (Liverpool Hope University, UK)
  • Breaking Into Song: Hull, Heyer, Shafak, James, and the Poetries of Popular Romance
    Eric Selinger (DePaul University)


Romancing Material Culture: Wedding Dresses, “Bella Bedding,” and All the Comforts of Home
  • “You’re just some bitch who broke my heart and cut up my mom’s wedding dress”: The significance of the wedding dress in romantic comedies
    Claire Jenkins (Bath Spa University, UK)
  • Sensuous Pleasures: The textural delights of Twilight’s ‘Bella bedding’
    Athena Bellas (University of Melbourne, Australia)
  • Jennifer Crusie and the Architecture of Love
    William Gleason (Princeton University, USA)


Happily Ever Afters–and Afters: Romance and Repetition
  • Ticket to Ride: An Inquiry Into The Supra-narrative Functions of the Happily Ever After Ending in Erotic Romance
    Madeleine Morris (RMIT International University, Vietnam)
  • A Sequence of Sequels: The Pleasure of Serial Romance Narrative
    An Goris (Katholik University of Leuven, Belgium)
  • Multiple Pleasures: Repetition and Recognition in Single-Title Serial Romance Novels
    Susan Kroeg (Eastern Kentucky University, USA)