Shelf Love

Romance Scholars After Hours

Short Description

What happens when 35 romance scholars walk into a bar, after hours at the IASPR 2023 Romance Revitalised conference? They share their favorite romance scholarship, and why!


original scholarship, romance scholarship

Show Notes

What happens when 35 romance scholars walk into a bar, after hours at the IASPR 2023 Romance Revitalised conference? They share their favorite romance scholarship, and why!

Shelf Love:

Thanks to all of the contributors to this episode!

Full list of romance scholarship mentioned on Substack:

Romance Reader Stereotype research:


Lucy Hargrave: [00:00:00] What,

Carly Bennett: what is the nature of this thing?

Andrea Martucci: I am a podcaster, I record audio.

Carly Bennett: Okay, okay.


Andrea Martucci: Hello, and welcome to Shelf Love a podcast about romance novels, and how they reflect, explore, challenge, and shape desire. I'm your host, Andrea Martucci. And on this episode, I'm joined by the brave romance scholars who jumped at the chance to share their favorite romance scholarship when I shoved my phone microphone in front of their face.

But first, let me back up and set the scene.

I have the pleasure to currently serve as the secretary of the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance, which is also known as IASPR. And this June, I traveled to Birmingham, UK to attend IASPR's 2023 romance scholarship conference, Romance Revitalized.

This was my first IASPR conference. And I think it was also my first in-person assemblage of romance scholars.

Previously I had presented virtually at the 2021 Popular Culture Association, which had a robust romance section. And while I have had the privilege of getting to know many romance scholars through this here podcast, I was super excited to meet people in real life.

I was also excited to present my research on bad romance data.

I'm going to package my presentation up for publication so I can't share all of the details now, but let's just say that I had better not see anyone talk about how romance is a billion dollar industry without citing legit sources.

For your reference the last time RWA updated their up to that point annual romance industry market report was 2013.

That is a decade ago. It's not data it's history.

I have expressed my annoyance with this persistent romance community talking point since at least June, 2021 as evidenced by this excerpt from episode 89, with Whoa!Mance, you'll hear Morgan in this clip.

(flashback harp music)

Andrea Martucci: Which, by the way, I know people keep saying this and I know that we have a $2 billion industry or whatever semi-recently from RWA's facts and figures, but like, I bet cookbooks are more than a $2 billion industry. Just as one thing, right? Like I want to push on that at some point, like this idea,

Morgan: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: romance drives the industry. Does it, like

Morgan: RWA has a vested interest in proving that fact. So their data should automatically be

Andrea Martucci: And I think that the problem is it's does it need to to be to be valid?

Morgan: Exactly, Exactly like that argument misses the point.

Andrea Martucci: So, I guess it's nice that I finally did the research so I could get even more annoyed about it. So here is the headline on romance market data.

It was always all made up. It's meant to be PR. The PR literally does nothing to change public perception of romance because that's not how [00:03:00] stereotypes work. As an aside, see my PCA 2021 presentation about the romance reader stereotype, link to YouTube in the show notes.

And finally the most important point of all, which I hit on in that episode long, long ago. By continuing to parrot the commercial romance industry's talking point that romance is valuable because of its economic value we achieve nothing and in fact, reinforced that its commercial value is its most important feature.

We can just like it. It's still worth studying and thinking about. People who aren't insiders will continue to be as confused about it as I am confused about football, a thing that I know is very popular, very mainstream, makes billions or trillions of dollars a year. I don't care. All of that, and I don't care enough about it to invest any time in thinking about it.

And that's okay.

So I presented my research. In 51 excellently curated slides. My gif game was on point. As was my dedication to sticking to the Lady Gaga theme. And it was great to hear the feedback and questions from those who attended the presentation. All of my hard work, leading up to my trip, paid off Huzzah.

I also enjoyed three days packed with panels, round tables, Discord chatter, tiny little sandwiches with smears of cream cheese and slices of cucumbers, and after hours events where the romance nerding out continued.

It truly was revitalizing, to echo the theme Romance Revitalized, to get together with a bunch of international scholars, from a huge range of backgrounds and to discover their research, share ideas, and fully immerse in romance scholarship together for a few days.

And, you know, I love my romance scholar friends, but I also have a special place in my heart for fellow scholarly romance podcasters. So it warms the cockles of my heart to meet Emma and Chels from Reformed Rakes, which is a new romance podcast on the scene.

They're doing great work over there, along with their third rake, Beth. So stay tuned for future Shelf Rakes collaborations, or is it Reformed Love? We haven't decided yet.

So the scene is set. What you are about to hear are recordings that were made at the IASPR conference in a variety of settings, but primarily at a raucus dinner in a very noisy restaurant.

I went around and asked people if they wanted to share their favorite romance scholarship and why. And I love the responses. One exciting element of romance scholarship is it's such an intimate and fairly new field that the scholars who are doing the work that you admire, maybe sitting right there at the dinner table with you. So I hope you enjoy everybody's contributions and check the show notes if you want the full list of romance scholarship that is recommended.

Alright, what is your favorite romance [00:06:00] scholarship?

Margo Hendricks: I'd have to say Frederick Jameson's Magical Narratives: the Romance Genre.

Andrea Martucci: Why?

Margo Hendricks: Because it makes you think about the structural dynamics of the romance itself, at the same time that you end up realizing that it can't be contained.

Andrea Martucci: And who are you?

Margo Hendricks: Margo Hendricks, a. k. a. Elysabeth Grace

Clarice Nicol: Hi, I'm Clarice Nicol and my favourite bit of romance scholarship is A Natural History of the Romance Novel by Pamela Regis, because that was like, the first bit of romance scholarship that I ever read, and I was like, people are studying this? Yeah. For nostalgia's sake, it's probably my favourite.

Katie Morrissey: Hi, I'm Katie Morrissey, and I don't have a favorite single work of romance scholarship, but I think there's a piece of scholarship that more romance scholars would maybe benefit from knowing about or find really useful, and it's not actually necessarily explicitly about romance, but it's Jane Jeffers, At Home With Pornography.

And it's a book from the late 90s, I believe. And it's a really interesting look at how sexually explicit materials come into the home and find women. And it does some really interesting work that I think would give romance scholars ways of talking about culture and like the circulation of content in ways that maybe help them escape some of the things they're less comfortable with Radway.

Carly Bennett: My name is Carly Bennett, and my favourite scholarly text is The Heart Has Its Reasons by Michael Karr and Christine Jenkins. Uh, It was the first full length study that looked at queer representation in YA, so they were the first people that did it.

Hanna Hoorenman: Hi, I'm Hanna Hoorenman and my favourite romance scholarship is Hsu-Ming's Desert Romance book. That was my gateway drug into romance scholarship. So insightful and so relevant and so well written. Complex but also I don't know, not so complex that I couldn't read it. And, I don't know, it was just, it was really good.

Charlotte Ireland: Charlotte Ireland and my favourite scholarly work is The Cultural Politics of Chick Lit: Popular Fiction, Post Feminism and Representation by Heike because it's formed the foundation of my PhD thesis and it just talks about a lot of the similar things that I do and yeah, I just think it's really inspiring.

Chels Upton: Hello, I don't have internet access. My name is Chels. This is from memory. It's Deborah Lutz, Dangerous Lover. It's about the Byronic Hero. It's very good.

Andrea Martucci: Why do you love it?

Chels Upton: I love it because I love a Byronic Hero, and I thought that was a really interesting way to talk about that character.

Emma Kearney: I'm Emma Kearney, and my favorite piece of romance novel scholarship is Angela Toscano, The Parody of Love: a Narrative Use Of Rape.

It blew my mind and changed how I thought about bodice rippers, and it made me enjoy aspects of the genre that I didn't know that I could enjoy.[00:09:00]

Sarah Ficke: My name is Sarah Ficke, and my favorite romance scholarly text is Desert Passions by Hsu-Ming Teo because her work has had a huge influence on my work as somebody looking at historical romance and trying to use a historical lens to study fiction.

She's been really inspirational.

Erik Myers: Excellent. Hello. My name is Eric Meyers and my favorite romance scholarly work is Desert Passions because my wife's favorite romance work is Desert Passions. And I'm here to support her and make sure that she is successful in her career.

Andrea Martucci: You could have said that your favorite romance text was her chapter from the Routledge Research Companion to Popular Romance Fiction.

Erik Myers: Yes, but somebody would have had to prompt me for that because I've been drinking an awful lot today.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. Perfect.

Sarah Ficke: Now you're on the record.

Andrea Martucci: You did it.

Evvie Valiou: Hello, my name is Evvie. My favorite piece of romance scholarship is Deborah Lodge's article on Heidegger's ontology and the dangerous lover in mass market romance. And I love it because of how it connects philosophy with the narrative structure of a romance and talks about ideas of the end of the novel and the end of the story vis a vis the imminence of love.

Heather Schell: My name is Heather Schell, and my favorite piece of romance scholarship is Nicole Jackson's article in JPRS called Freedom's Epilogue.

And it's about Alyssa Cole and her use of politics and activism in popular romance novels. Not only do I love that piece, but I really love teaching it. It pairs really well with the Alyssa Cole novella I do teach. And students find it really accessible and it's just incredibly smart.

Jayashree Kamble: I'm Jayashree Kamble. I am at the City University of New York, and LaGuardia Community College, and currently serving as the president of IASPR, the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance, and the romance scholarly text that was really important to me as a student was Joanne Hollows' book, Feminism, Femininity, and Popular Culture, which came out in 2000.

It has a chapter on reading romance fiction, romantic fiction. And it was really transformative for me because up until then, everybody only kept talking about Janice Radway as if it was the only text that was available. And finding out someone else was working on the genre, or had some other things that I could look at, was a huge relief.

Jo Kluger: And when I found your book, I was like, finally.

Andrea Martucci: We already started now. Okay, now you start over. Who are you?

Jo Kluger: I'm Jo Kluger. I'm a PhD student, and my whole thing is working about the concepts of hero and heroine in romance novels and in romance scholarship, and that was what my master's project was about. And finding Making Meaning in Popular Romance blew the whole thing wide open for me and finally gave me the door I was looking for and the approach I was looking [00:12:00] for and put me on the trajectory where I am now because I got my PhD position based on my master's thesis.

Andrea Martucci: And now we have a live reaction from Jayashree Kamble.

Jayashree Kamble: We're like climbing while we're, what is it? What's the phrase?

Andrea Martucci: We're building the plane while we're flying?

Jayashree Kamble: Sure.

Andrea Martucci: Is that what you were saying?

Jayashree Kamble: No, but I like that one too. Yeah, we are building the plane while we're flying. And I'm so happy because the whole point of that book and the ridiculous theory that's in it is to give people some metalanguage to talk to these departments.

So I'm so happy that it's helping.

Inma Perez: So I'm Inma Pérez, right? And my favorite piece of scholarship would be Pamela Regis's Natural History of the Romance Novel and mostly because it's the first serious academic scholarship that I came across when I was getting started so it's, relevant for me because it showed me that you could actually do research, academic research on romance,

Jodi McAlister: Hello, I am Jodi McAlister. I'm the author of three books relevant to romance scholarship. The Consummate Virgin, New Adult Fiction, and Publishing Romance Fiction in the Philippines, co authored with Claire Parnell and Andrea Ann Trinidad, also the author of seven romance novels.

But my favorite work of scholarship relevant to romance fiction is Modern Love by David Shumway, which helps me think through issues of passion versus intimacy.

Jonathan Allan: What do I have to do now?

Andrea Martucci: Say your name?

Jonathan Allan: Jonathan Allan.

Andrea Martucci: Say it conversational, like, hi, I'm Jonathan Allan.

Jonathan Allan: Okay, hi, I'm Jonathan Allan. And my favorite romance criticism book is Happily Ever After, The Romance Story in Popular Culture by Catherine Roach. I just think it's a lot of fun. And I feel like she had a lot of fun writing it.

And it's just really provocative in the right ways.

Kaja Franck: Hello, my name is Kaja Franck and the scholarship work that's most influenced my work would be all the work on gothic nature. And in particular, it's the William Hughes and Andrew Smith's first edited collection on the Eco Gothic. Because that was really important in creating the methodology of my thesis and has gone on to inform pretty much all of my research since then.

I'm always looking for animals all the time.

Katie Deane: My name is Katie Deane, and my favorite romance scholarship text is Chapter 10, specifically Chapter 10, of Carol Thurston's Romance Revolution. The whole book is great, but Chapter 10 is about genre change in the romance genre, and uses a systems model, and it's amazing, and this was written decades ago, and it's still so relevant, and I love it, and everyone should read it.

Katina Jan: Hi, I'm Katrina Jan and I'm studying the sexualisation of Jack the Ripper and an academic gothic text that has influenced me the most has to be City of Dreadful Delight by Judith R. Wolkowicz and it talks about the narratives of sexual danger in late Victorian London.

Lucy Neville: I'm Lucy Neville. I'm a lecturer in Criminology and Forensic Psychology. But romance is an area which I publish [00:15:00] in and have a lot of interest in. And I also write slash fiction and other kinds of romantic fan fiction. And my favourite romance academic book is The Consummate Virgin by Jodi McAlister.

Andrea Martucci: Jodi McAlister, somebody just said that their favorite romance text is The Consummate Virgin by Jodi McAlister. What do you have to say?

Jodi McAlister: I say, was it Lucy Neville? Did I ask her to endorse it? Thank you very much.

Matthew A. Hoffman: Hi! I'm Matthew A. Hoffman. I'm a philosopher working with the relationship, intersection of popular romance and philosophy. I think my favorite is Pamela Regis The Natural History of the Romance Novel. Because I love thinking about the structure of the romance novel and what that says about what we take romance to be.

Lucy Hargrave: Hello, my name is Lucy and my favourite romance article is from 2014. It was published in the Journal of Popular Romance Studies and it's You and I are Humans and There's Something Complicated Between Us: Untamed and Queering the Heterosexual Historical Romance by Jodi McAlister and the reason it's my favourite is because it was like the first piece of academic literature I saw about queer romances.

Meghna Bohidar: Hi, I'm Meghna. I'm a PhD scholar from Delhi, India. And I'm working on public romance in India. My favorite romance scholarship is the book Consuming the Romantic Utopia by Eva Illouz. I think that was the first novel I read that combined mass advertised images of romance, as well as feminist theory and post modern theory, and it really fascinated me and motivated me to do the work I'm doing now.

Michaela Jeppesen: Hi, I'm Michaela Jeppesen, and I work in erotic publishing. We published a book called Calendar Sex, and I really enjoy it because it allows this couple who has been together for quite a long time to discover their sexualities again together by having an erotic calendar where they do something new every day. And I think it brings in both new things that you can do and at the same time having the reader learn about things that they can do, but also that it's okay to not always know what you like, but to rediscover what you like.

So I really enjoy that. It's a Christmas one, so it's always relevant. Every year.

Lucy Sheerman: Hey, my name's Lucy Sheerman my favorite romance scholarship is Deborah Lutz, Deborah Lutz Bronte's in Nine Object s because I'm absolutely obsessed with the Brontes, and my favorite novel is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Ros Haslett: Hi, I'm Ros Hazlett, and I'm not actually a romance scholar. I come from theatre and performance, but my favourite scholarship, which I think applies to romance, is the theatre historian Diana Taylor has this theory of the archive and the repertoire, and the archive as documents and texts stay apparently stable objects, but the repertoire is the transference of embodied knowledge and I think that's really relevant to what romance is doing.

Nicola Welsh-Burke: Hi, my name is Nicola Welsh Burke and my [00:18:00] favourite scholarly romance article or text, is Fleur Diamond's Beauty and the Beautiful Beast. It's a fantastic article about, nominally Twilight, but also talks about the supernatural animal bridegroom and sexuality.

And it was very useful for 70% of my thesis. Also, it's just a good article.

Maria Butler: Hi, my name is Maria Butler. I am a PhD student in Cork, in Ireland. I think that my favourite piece of romance scholarship at the moment is The Routledge Companion. Because my research isn't specifically romance focused, it's a really nice overview and I really like that it has stuff about the publishing industry as well.

So it's not just focusing on the content, but around all the para texts around it as well.

Andrea Martucci: Do you have a favorite chapter?

Maria Butler: I think it's the marketing one.

Nattie Golubov: Hi, my name is Nattie Golubov, and my favorite piece of scholarly work on romance is Reading the Romance by Janice Radway because it was the first serious piece of work on romance that with hindsight might come across as patronizing, but I think at the time what she did was extraordinary.

Natti Golubov: She took the genre seriously. She did not have a sort of a secondary bibliography on romance, so she had to piece together her methodology and her theory from other sources, and I just think that's very difficult to do. So I admire it as a piece of research, although of course now, we think about it differently.

Andrea Martucci: All right, that's it. I will be back talking about romance scholarship soon, and I would love to keep sharing favorite romance scholarship soundbites from anyone who would like to submit one. So, whether you attended IASPR virtually, in person, or you weren't able to attend at all, if you would like to submit a short clip, similar in length and style to the ones that you heard here today, just send an MP3 audio file to me at Andrea at Shelf Love Podcast dot com.

Just to give you a sense of the technology used for the clips that you heard here today. I literally just use my iPhone voice recorder app. So you really don't need a fancy microphone in order to participate. Don't worry about it. Use whatever you got. Send it over. I am so excited to hear it.

That's all for today. Thank you. And good night.

Hey, thanks for spending time with me today. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate or review on your favorite podcast app or tell a friend. Check out for transcripts and other resources. If you want regular written updates from Shelf Love, you can increasingly find me over at Substack

Read occasional updates and short essays about romance at Thank you to Shelf Love's $20 a month Patreon supporters: Gail, Copper Dog Books, and Frederick Smith. I have a great day. Bye! [00:21:00]