Shelf Love

082. Critical Reading as Liberation from Mimicry of the Powerful

Short Description

Dr. Julie Moody-Freeman, host of Black Romance Podcast, uses a multi-modal cultural studies perspective to engage students in critical engagement with Black romance texts to "liberate learners from the mimicry of the powerful."


pop culture in the classroom, romance scholarship, genre discussions

Show Notes

Dr. Julie Moody-Freeman, host of Black Romance Podcast, uses a multi-modal cultural studies perspective to engage students in critical engagement with Black romance texts to "liberate learners from the mimicry of the powerful."

Show Notes:

Shelf Love:

Guest: Dr. Julie Moody-Freeman

Center for Black Diaspora at DePaul | Twitter

Listen to Black Romance Podcast

Website | Apple Podcasts | Spotify

Article we talk about:

Cultural Studies, Multiculturalism, and Media Culture By Douglas Kellner


Progression of me discovering I might have ADHD:


[00:00:00] Andrea Martucci: Hello, and welcome to episode 82 of Shelf Love, a podcast that unpacks romance novels with nuance. In conversations with scholars, readers, and other experts, Shelf Love contextualizes, the popular romance genre within the broader, critical discussion of identity, culture and love.

I'm your host, Andrea Martucci, and my guest today is Dr. Julie Moody-Freeman host of Black Romance Podcast, and director for the Center of Black Diaspora at DePaul. In this episode, Julie shares a method that she finds useful for engaging students with romance texts in the classroom, especially when they are coming from multiple disciplines and usually have no previous experience reading romance.

However, I think this framework, which is basically a cultural studies perspective, is specifically multimodal, that is a combination of multiple ways of engaging with the text together. I think that this is really useful especially for longtime romance readers. So if you are somebody who regularly reads romance or somebody who is just dipping in, or somebody who has never read a romance text, this should be universally helpful as a framework.

And that's why I really like it. I am so glad that Julie introduced this to me. You can read the chapter that she gives to her students and that she gave to me. It's called "Cultural Studies, Multiculturalism, and Media Culture" by Douglas Kellner.

You can find the link in the show notes, and I hope you give it a read. I think there are so many gems in it and of course in this episode, you will get an introduction to what Kellner is talking about.

So maybe listen first, then read it, or read first, then listen. Either way, I hope you enjoy this episode and I know that you are going to love all the brilliant insights that Julie has to share about her research in Black romance.

Julie Moody-Freeman: I'm Julie Moody-Freeman. I have a PhD in literature and cultural studies from University of Illinois at Chicago, currently at DePaul where I am an associate professor in African and Black diaspora studies. And I'm the director for the Center of Black Diaspora at DePaul.

Now, how did I come to romance? And how did I even come to teach romance? I think I came into romance first as a reader, having a love for it, reading it from the time I was very young, I time it at around 11, but I've gone back maybe even earlier than that. So I've always been a reader of it.

[00:02:30] I got into the academic portion of it, which I ran away for many years, but I got into it because of Eric Selinger, and Eric is in the English department at DePaul and when he was forming the association for the study of popular romance studies invited me to a conference. He was having at Princeton and I did a paper there and just constantly over the years, he would draw me into projects.

And then I moved from presenting papers to, at one point proposing to teach. And, it's funny because before I taught the course on romance that I now teach at DePaul, I taught a course on Blacks in love.

And so I just dabbled very little in teaching romance. I would  use bell hooks. And we used her definition of love and Martin Luther King Jr. As this frame to understand certain texts. And I use Brenda Jackson has a novella Strictly Business that I use in that particular class. And I think once I started dabbling in that, I just went all out and said, let me give it a try and decided to propose a course.

I think it's titled something like Romance, Gender, and Race. And the focus of the class is to look at Black romance writers, particularly African-American romance writers.  I have a tendency to focus on romance that talks about institution building. And so in most of them, there is either an orphanage or there's some type of center where the hero and heroine are using the center to help people in the community. And so those were the choices I made for books, and that's how I got into doing romance and romance studies.

Andrea Martucci: Well, and you broke onto the romancelandia stage this summer with the Black Romance Podcast where you've been doing an oral history and speaking to amazing people like Vivian Stephens and Gwyneth Bolton, AKA Gwendolyn Pew, is it?

Julie Moody-Freeman: Yes.

Andrea Martucci: Yes. And and I listened to that episode and you were mentioning her earlier. I know you teach one of her books in your class. And let's see Sandra Kitt, you spoke with. And I think that like it was like all of a sudden one day,  your episodes just popped up and it was like, Oh my gosh this is amazing. You were, you had this stealth project [00:05:00] going on. And then we were all surprised by it.

Julie Moody-Freeman: I was surprised by it too.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. So how did the project of the Black Romance Podcast come about?  You did this through the Center for Black Diaspora Studies at DePaul.

Julie Moody-Freeman: That's right. That's right. Yeah. It caught me by surprise also. I think when I started the year, it was definitely not in my head. Once we went into quarantine because of COVID as a center, we immediately pivoted to virtual events on one of the major projects for me was to talk about how COVID was affecting the Black community.

And then I not sure what exactly happened, I just decided that I loved podcasting. I would always be listening to it and I remember I would search for the ones with Black writers and they would pop up in different podcasts, but I kept searching and I said, wait a minute, I don't see one that's just for Black writers. And wouldn't it be nice to not only do one with Black writers, but to talk with the writers that it would build an archive so that people like me who are doing, Oh, I think I remember now also I'd done this chapter for Eric.

Andrea Martucci: For the Routledge Companion.

Julie Moody-Freeman: Yes. Right. I had done that. When I was doing that project for him, and looking at the history of what's written on African-American romance, it was hard to find like scholarly articles on it.

So I included newspaper articles, included whatever I could. And I thought, Hey, somebody coming behind me would have not only that resource that's in the research companion, the Routledge research companion, but they might also have my podcast and then people could build on it and we would have an archive.

And I think I realized then, Oh, now I know how to use Zoom. I don't have to worry about paying to go visit the writers. I can like Zoom in. And so I think all those things converged and I sketched out a quick plan. I mean, it happened so quickly. That's why, like you felt it was stealth.

It was cause I didn't even know. It happened very quickly. I emailed Eric and I was like, Eric, I have this idea. And he and I chat for a long time over the phone. And because he felt that [00:07:30] I shouldn't stop at the podcast. He felt that I should do more, that I should publish it.

And I was like, Oh, okay. So we talked about this big project, how we could, the center could do the podcast and then we could put our energies also into publishing it in JPRS. And I think that's where it build, where we had Margo Hendricks coming in.

And then we have all these wonderful contributors so that the podcast will be turned into a journal. And then the journal will also have scholarly articles on the writers that I interviewed. So that's a long story of how it came to be. I cannot explain in a logical way, except that all those things sorta converged and it converged very quickly.

So by beginning of June, it was a matter of like weeks. June invitations had been sent out, I started them and I honestly did not know how to do a podcast. I still don't necessarily know like one of them, the one with Vivian Stephens, I was taping- I had a phone in my hand, an iPad up to the phone and that's how that podcast was.

So I think it just all came quickly, but it just became just wonderful, a wonderful experience for me meeting some of my writers that I love and learning so much. And then the community that came after that.

Andrea Martucci: I think that so many times the inspiration for these things, it's all these little pieces coming together and finally, it makes sense. And I think sometimes also you need somebody else's help to help you see. A lot of times we think smaller than we could think about it.

So I, I love that. Then it was like, no, make it bigger, do more,  this has so much potential, like why stop at just a podcast?  I really love the oral history aspect of it as well because it's preserving people's own words about how they felt about things.

Julie Moody-Freeman: That's exactly right. Yeah. Because even with  the chapter that I did, it was always, yeah. I tapped into some interviews. But it was always what people said about the writers, how we're analyzing it. It's funny because when I was interviewing Vivian Stephens, she said, Oh, I'm about to talk to somebody from the Texas Monthly.

And it was going to happen like shortly after mine. Not knowing what was going on. And she also, she was like, what's in the air. We're like, what's going on, that I'm getting these interviews now. And then the Texas Monthly came out shortly before mine and I was like, Whoa. But then I said again, [00:10:00] something with the podcast. It was a beautiful

Andrea Martucci: It was a very well done article, yeah.

Julie Moody-Freeman: -Article. . I love it. And it helps to fill in a lot of the gaps that I didn't even think of asking. I didn't even know that didn't even come up in my podcast. So I loved it for that. But the thing also with the podcast that I like is then you get to hear the writers and the editors talk about themselves and give you their side of the story.

That's what I love about it. And I think I'm really happy because now when I teach my class with the romance writers, I'm going to be able to have them listen to the podcast and it will  add another dimension to the approaches that I take when I teach this class.

Andrea Martucci: And I think, something I want to talk about with you later when we get into the meat of this is the idea of death of the author, which sometimes, when people are analyzing work, it's like, who cares what the author said.  I don't know. I don't know what I feel about that, but it does feel like there's an analysis project, and I think about this with all of the oral histories that you did, where your job as the host of that format is  you're not a journalist, you're not necessarily, you're not getting a scoop.

Your role as the person speaking to somebody for an oral history,  your job is not to challenge what people say so much. Like you, you want to probe for like the details that you want them to speak to. But there's an, now is this project then when you consider what people have said to consider people's motivations. Like everybody's the hero of their own story.

And I'm not like implying that any of the people you spoke to you are misrepresenting things, but they're talking about something from their own experience, which is biased.

Julie Moody-Freeman: Yeah. That's right. Yes, exactly. Yeah. And it's funny because later on we'll talk a little  about cultural studies and perspectives. And that's why I think there's no one truth, there are these different sides and we're bringing our own positions to things. So we get their side.

But if in my class or in my writing, I can layer it with stuff that Steve Ammidown, that he has in his archives or that somebody else has written in their article or other interviews I've listened to. Reese has on YouTube, has a beautiful show where she brings in writers.

Andrea Martucci: Reese Ryan?

Julie Moody-Freeman: She did a show with Brenda Jackson. She did one with Brenda Jackson and listening to that and listening to Fated Mates with Steve [00:12:30] talking, sometimes you can piece stuff together.

And so I just love, I love having those different points of view. I don't think of the podcast as "it," the thing that we'll, will save romance or that everybody, you should listen to it. But I think listening to it layered with other interviews that are done, and other work will just bring so much more insight and really rich readings, complex readings of the writers themselves and the books that they're writing.

That's the approach that I'm taking, even though when I'm writing the questions for the podcast, I'm like writing two pages of questions. I'm like, I don't want to forget. I don't want to miss something.

And then I'm like, you know, something you can't like pressure for yourself. You cannot get everything. Yes.

Andrea Martucci: How in a two hour conversation even, can you get the entirety of somebody's career or existence, right?

Julie Moody-Freeman: Yeah. Yes. And it can, you really can't yeah, but, and then when you're, when you're doing the interview, then stuff comes up too, you ask follow up and it takes you in different directions and I have to be willing to remember that, that's what it is.

Andrea Martucci: I feel that all the time , and sometimes I get a little too stuck to my plan, where I'm like well, I put this in the outline, we have to cover it. And I'm like but like where it went was like so much more interesting. And I should just let it be that and not be like, but I have to ask you about this other thing.

Okay, so you teach this class and one of the texts that you use in the class that you teach is this article.  It's a short article by Douglas Kellner called Cultural Studies, Multiculturalism and Media Culture.

Can you talk about why you find this useful to use as a framework in your class  and how it helps you accomplish what you really want to do, which is, which as you told me is you want to dig into the text but this is just a tool to use to get in. So why do you find this particular article helpful for your students?

Julie Moody-Freeman: Yeah. So I've taught the class several times. So again, this class is titled Romance, Gender, and Race. And we study,  it depends on which year I'm teaching it, but the last time I taught it, I taught Gwyneth Bolton's Make It Last Forever, Felicia Mason's Gabriel's Discovery, Alyssa Cole's A Duke By Default, Beverly Jenkins Forbidden.

And then I taught The Brightest Day, I taught a couple of the novellas in there. So those are the central focus. The first time I taught the course, I was going to come in like I  would do in [00:15:00] English and we would just do close readings of it. But the title of the class is Romance, Gender, and Race, which means that it's attracting different populations.

Generally, in my classes, when I teach African and Black Diaspora Studies, I'm getting students from all over the university. There's no prerequisite. And so I can have a digital cinema student. I could have a business student, I have chemistry, biology, they're coming from all over. So it's the same thing when I'm teaching romance, gender, and race, I'm having people who are coming in for romance, and that's all they want to talk about. I'm having people coming for gender studies and that's what they want to talk about. And sometimes the romance gets in the way for them. And then I have race. I'm having people come in who want to focus only on race, particularly because this comes out of African and Black Diaspora Studies. They just want to talk about Blackness. So the first time I taught it, it was an absolute mess because the students are coming with their different positions, their different desires, and it's not being met.

And I realized when I looked back, if for example somebody said something in terms of consensual sex, or they did a close reading of a scene. I remember I was using oh, it may have been one of Sandra Kitt's books, called Suddenly..

And the hero is an older guy. And they felt that the sex, they felt like maybe he didn't ask permission.

Andrea Martucci: Like it was coercive.

Julie Moody-Freeman: Yeah. They read it in that way. And I could understand why they would read it as in that way, particularly given that this book was written probably maybe 1990s. But the students are coming, talking about it after the Me Too movement. And once the students who did gender studies  talk about the lack of consent the students who did studies in terms of African and Black Diaspora Studies felt that they were maybe denigrating or using stereotypes to talk about the hero who's Black.

So we have those kind of debates.  It's good to have those discussions, but you want them to be productive and to go somewhere rather than just  shouting. So when I was done with the class, I looked back at it, then I looked at all my PowerPoint and I was like, you know, something,  I didn't give them any guidance. I need to give them more guidance. And I need to tap into what it is that I would normally do when I write a paper.

The thing is that I want romance to [00:17:30] be the center of the focus, to be the primary focus of the class. But I also want to be able to give students the tool,  the methods and approaches  to help, to bring more complex readings to the book. But how can I privilege romance without bringing a whole lot of theory and a whole lot of other external readings? How do I do that? That was hard.

And I remembered that I had taught, I teach a course on multiculturalism, sophomore multiculturalism, where we do studies on gender, media, and race. And I had read Douglas Kellner's Cultural Studies, Multiculturalism and Media Culture, and thought that he was able to capture all of these different ideas, right?

What cultural studies is, what are the approaches, what type of theories you can use when you're doing textual analysis, he had captured this in this short piece. I thought, this is perfect. And this will give me something to teach students that will make them not say, Oh, I liked the book. I don't like the book. Done conversation and it allowed them to bring richer meaning.

Andrea Martucci: And as you were saying that I was thinking about the phrase genre competency, which I most recently read in an interview that Hsu-Ming Teo did, I'll link to it in the show notes. I just read this interview and she was talking about how, like a lot of second wave romance scholars didn't have genre competency.

And so they're coming in and not really considering  the context of the genre and the symbolism of the constructs of the genre and how that impacted things. And I wonder if this framework in particular, like when you have a one semester class with students where you're -

Julie Moody-Freeman: 10 weeks,

Andrea Martucci: you don't have time to teach them everything about the genre. And so in order to prevent that Oh, like this must be because all romance novels have consent issues or bad racial representation or - to prevent it from becoming reductive. This seems like a really helpful framework for having that more nuanced conversation about novels that are in a genre  that the students may not be familiar enough with to inherently have that sort of nuanced conversation.

And honestly, a lot of people have trouble having this nuanced conversation. So I'm not saying like just your students but the way you're talking about them is they're not coming in as like romance [00:20:00] readers or Black romance readers.

Julie Moody-Freeman: Oh no, definitely not. Some of them have never picked up a romance. Now, as a matter of fact, some of them chose the class because they thought they were going to study like romance literature, Wordsworth, (Andrea: evil laugh) they thought that they were like, Oh, okay, this is what we're going to do.

And then, you did have one or two who had read, but not widely and definitely not Black romance. So yeah. So these are the students who are coming in. And yeah, I always tell them we're not going to have the same readings and the same arguments about the book, or language, and the way we approach it will be, there'll be some consistency to it.

And then you could use that language to sort of guide them. Marker [00:20:39]

  Andrea Martucci: And so there's the three main elements to the analysis that Kellner proposes. So he talks about political economy, the textual analysis, and then the audience reception as  the three core pillars.

And I also I summarized that as production, product, and reception because I have a marketing background. And so that's how I think about it. I actually saw, I think particularly in the production and the political economy element of it, I was like, Oh, this is really interesting because this is backing into the marketing decisions that were made.

Julie Moody-Freeman: I think first of all why I chose to use  literature and cultural studies, what it did was it offered interdisciplinarity. Political economy that's one way of approaching. And if you use textual analysis, that's the literary criticism part of it. And so if you have interdisciplinarity and you have these different ways of reading, it brings this multiple perspective to things. It also, I think one of the reasons that I think that this is important is that especially students who are coming in from certain departments are surprised that we're even reading romance.

They're like, are you sure I can write a paper? You want me to write a paper on romance? And I'm like, yes, because one of the things I want them to understand that this approach that I'm using is so often in the Academy, you feel like the only thing that we should be talking about are things that are in the canon, right?

And I'm able to say to them that, hey, you know, in the literature particularly in cultural studies, there is no higher and low. Don't believe in canons. So I think this also allows us to have these frank [00:22:30] conversations, things that they would be scared of talking to me about.

(laughs) It gives them license to be able read romance, but then to say I can use an interview as a source for my bibliography? And I'm like, yes. I can use a podcast?  I think in the Academy. And maybe it's how we've taught them, they feel that only certain things are allowed even the types of sources that I push them. And I think that's what teaching Douglas Kellner and  taking a cultural studies approach does, so it frees them up.

And then, like I said before we get beyond the " I like," or "I don't like."

Kellner doesn't just talk about political economy. He talks about production and political economy. And I think they also too feel like maybe sometimes it's an either or, but for me like Kellner talks about what we're doing is analyzing the cultural texts within the system of production and distribution. So when was it produced? Who produced it? Who's the publisher? And you'll see this show up in my podcast where I'm asking questions about what were some of the guidelines, submission guidelines that they gave you.

And, I found out, I know I'm like I'm slowly switching back and forth between the podcasts and the class, because they're sorta, almost intertwined in my head because I'm using some of the same methods -

Andrea Martucci: They're building on each other, too.

Julie Moody-Freeman: That's right. Exactly. And that's why I'm asking some of these questions to the writers too, because some of the writers actually say yes. One of the writers Gwyneth Bolton said, they thought that my heroine was just too aggressive or too

Andrea Martucci: Huh. (sarcastic) There's some coding there going on, right?

Julie Moody-Freeman: Yeah. Yeah. So they, " they wanted me to soften her. And I just didn't feel I wanted my heroine to be a certain way. And so I didn't like writing with this particular publisher. It was much better because I didn't get those guidelines at the other publisher."

So when we're having a discussion in class and a student said I just can't stand this. I can't stand this heroine. She's blah, blah, blah. We can then tap into, that's the beauty of cultural studies and this sorta multi-perspective approach and interdisciplinary approach, because then you could tap into those interviews to talk about how the production and the requirements, the submission requirements, or guidelines or formulas, how that's shaping the way that heroine looks [00:25:00] like.

Cause you'll have writers who will say, "I wrote a Harlequin hero." Which the person said I had to change because I wasn't writing for, I was writing for BET and so depending on what publisher publishes you, what editor you're working with, it'll shape.

And then when we have conversations, it's so exciting because then you just see students' eyes pop open "Oh, I never thought of that." I was like, I never thought of it either.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

Julie Moody-Freeman: If I didn't read this or if I didn't talk to a writer, I didn't look at the interview. I would never have known that I would have just been coming from my position. And that's why like Douglas Kellner, because Douglas Kellner talks about, we should do production political economy. We should do textual analysis and audience reception. They go together. Right. Because we bring our readings to it. We're coming from our own positions and positions is shaped by where we're from or race or gender or class. All those things are shaping  our readings. But then when you layer it with this information, what are you going to do then?

Then your argument has to become a little more complex. A lot of times the students will think, Oh, it just shuts down everything. No, it doesn't. It just adds another complex layer.

Andrea Martucci: It's so circular.  On an individual work level it's linear. Okay, it has to get produced and what was going on at the time it was a produced or up until that point. And then, what actually came about? What was the actual product that came out that you can analyze. And then how did people respond to it or how do they continue to respond to it? And that's sort of linear.

But it's all circular where all of these things are working to - the audience reception of the last book is going to influence the production of the next book, the audience reading the text that just came out is going to start to build and create an understanding of what they want to read next and how they respond to the next thing.

And so it's it's so intertwined and you, honestly it could explode out to consume the entire universe because (Julie laughs) it never stops like exponentially -  it's  exactly what you're saying. Like it opens things up almost to a sort of infuriating degree of feeling like there's just so much you don't know about what influenced.

This point that he makes in here about dominant ideologies is so interesting. It's present in all three of his core points here, production in political economy, textual analysis, and then audience reception. And the note I made is "indoctrination is insidious." And  pulling from the text a little bit he said, "dominant [00:27:30] ideologies serve to produce social relations of domination and subordination. Ideologies make inequalities and subordination appear natural and just, and thus induce consent to relations of domination."

So  the political economy might say more about what that dominant ideology is. How did we get to the point where capitalism is prized above all else? Or our ideas of value or even beauty. Okay. Now that's going to influence the people making production decisions, the companies and their economic incentives or their political reality. Okay. So that influences what is created on a subconscious level.

And I think that's why this is so insidious, right. Is you don't necessarily have every single person in this process being like I'm making this decision to prop up capitalism. That's not how it happens. They're just like, Oh, I'm just  making a choice in my best interest without considering the water that they're swimming in.

And then the text.  So the author is also living in that world and has been influenced by production. And so the authors prejudices or life experience or understanding of what's good and what's bad is gonna make it into the text. And then the audience is going to " Oh I think this Black character is a little too aggressive."

Okay. To go back here "ideologies make inequalities and subordination appear natural and just."

Julie Moody-Freeman: Yes.

Andrea Martucci: A common thing that Black romance authors speak about is when people read their books and they're like, "I don't know, I just couldn't connect."

And it's like, okay well, that's the dominant ideology telling you what you should be able to connect with and how you should feel about this.

Julie Moody-Freeman: Yeah. And so when you're doing textual analysis, one of the things that I think it's very important to what you just said, because a lot of readings.

All those ideologies are working sometimes at a subconscious level. You don't even realize it. One of the things that I try to do is I work in Black feminists with Black feminist theory.  Whenever, whenever I'm reading something, I'm always reading critically, whatever it has to do with: race, gender that's what pops in my head.

And I make sure that I tell students that, right? So it doesn't matter what class I teach. I'm always saying to them, listen, this class could be taught in so many different ways, but it's shaped by the work that I do, it's shaped by Black feminist [00:30:00] theory. It's shaped by critical race studies.

And those are the readings that I'm going to be bringing to the scene, whatever scene it is that we're reading. So what I want them to do, and this is a very sort of feminist thing is to always reflect, be self-reflective right. Always be reflecting on the ways in which those ideologies are working through you in your readings.

And so I don't mind that you have a different opinion or you have a different argument about a particular scene. I want you to be open about it. I want you to clearly articulate it. And so that when you say I don't like this, and this didn't work because of such and such what ideology is shaping that?

And you just get these fascinating multiple readings of things, because sometimes people are not reading it. Sometimes people are reading it from class, from Marxist position or I don't do necessarily psychoanalysis, but some people are bringing their readings and looking at that.

And that's okay, you must articulate that and you must be clear about that. And I think that to me made for a better class, better readings, better papers, so that students didn't feel I was just shut down, right? I'm not just, I'm not shutting you down. You need to articulate what it is that shaping that argument.

And then you bring the argument and then you layer it with these other things. And I think that's what this piece does that I think is helpful. It may be elementary for people who are deep into cultural studies, but I think for a college classroom, for people who are coming from all over, it provides them with a language and common approach that then they can bring complex readings to the text.

Andrea Martucci: It serves a really useful purpose for modeling a way of interrogating one's own biases

Julie Moody-Freeman: That's right.

Andrea Martucci: for your students and Kellner actually speaks about the actual project of a critical consciousness as a form of liberation to "liberate learners from the mimicry of the powerful."

Julie Moody-Freeman: yeah. Yes, that's right. Yeah. And I, one of the things I can't find it right now what he says, but I think I'll paraphrase it because I always talk to my students about it. A lot of students keep thinking, because I guess, because we were taught that way to believe that we should do objective. There's no objectivity!

I say this like upfront in this class, that whatever readings we're bringing is being shaped by all these things. You just have to be clear about it. [00:32:30] And so you totally have to question .

He says something about how there is a purpose to transforming. That this type of reading that you're doing is about transforming society. It is about critique, Oh yeah, so he says , "critical cultural studies attacks, sexism, racism, or bias against specific social groups. i.e. gays, intellectuals and so on" and "criticizes texts that promote any kind of domination or oppression."

That's one of the crucial things that I talk to students about. That yes, there is a purpose here. I'm not going to hide the purpose. (laughs) The purpose is we will come in and we will critique things.

I think one time I had a trouble in my class where a student said the same thing about consensual sex. " I don't think that you want me to talk about that." No, that is important to talk about consensual sex, but you can't come at it just from, Oh, it was rape.

That's it. You have to really dig in where in the narrative that is right. Do the close textual analysis so that you can bring out your argument and then you have to talk about the production of it. Right interviews, the audience reception, so we can get all these layers to talk about consensual sex.

One of the texts that I thought was really, the Duke By Default, I thought that dealt beautifully with the issue of not so much consensual, but the issue of sexual harassment and the boss and employee relations really. Because if you think about it,

Andrea Martucci: The power imbalance.

Julie Moody-Freeman: That's right. That's exactly. You use the right word cause Kellner talks about right. Those power relationships. Students tapped into that a whole lot, because I think Alyssa Cole, of course, she's a sorta younger generation. I think of her as a younger generation writer.

She's very sensitive, I think, to what's going on in terms of that relationship, because when she and Tavish are having a relationship, somehow the narrative sorta makes it clear about the boundaries between the boss and employee type relationships. So my students like to analyze that a lot.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. So if we talk about how like rape or non-consent or dubious consent shows up in romance novels, and like content warning aside, like some people do not want to read it and they should be adequately warned so that they don't read something that [00:35:00] is harmful to them.

So that's like first things first.

Okay. Now we're talking about people who actually want to engage with this topic in a text. There's so much of like how it is mitigated and I feel like this is where, like the genre conventions, which I would say are part production and it's part audience reception like there, there are audience expectations built into a genre, specific to romance, where there are certain things that I think are more problematic within the romance genre than they would be  in another genre  because the conventions of romance are such that we are meant to believe as the reader that these two people are meant to be together, right. Or these three people, whatever that these people are, actually good for each other and meant to be together. And we want to believe in the happily ever after.

The way you mitigate a sexual assault or a relationship in which one person has violated the consent and power of the other member, I think really starts to call into question like, should these two people be together?

How is it influencing me as the receiver of this message that the underlying narrative is telling me that because of the structure of the romance that these people are good for each other and in love. And is there something about that then is harmful.  I was thinking about this in audience reception, where Kellner's talking about things that are emancipatory or destructive and first of all I'm not saying these things should not be in romance.

However, I am trying to model asking those questions within this framework of some people say well, if I enjoy it, like I'm an audience member. If I enjoy it, it's emancipatory. And I think what Kellner is trying to make a point of is, just because you enjoy it doesn't mean it's emancipatory.

Like just because the audience is like, no, no, no, this doesn't harm me. Does not mean it's emancipatory. To like ask those questions of what does it mean when within the context of what we understand romance to be, a relationship is presented where there's  this really harmful act that somebody perpetrates on another, how is it mitigated?

Is it mitigated in such a way that we can believe that these people should be together? And that this is not a completely destructive act that ruins the relationship.

I think that's like a more interesting conversation to have, like on a textual level.

Cause obviously this should be grounded in like an actual text where something happened. And so you were talking about A Duke By Default and the power and I'm not implying that there's dubious consent or anything in there, but when you have this power [00:37:30] imbalance, for example, between an employee and an employer in the text, does it mitigate that? Do we feel like Tavish is abusing his power with Portia?

Julie Moody-Freeman: I think the Duke By Default, Alyssa Cole did a beautiful job because it was, she was very conscious of that.

The way the students usually respond to this book is they analyze it. They talk a lot about the Me Too movement. And all this was coming around the same time, cause I think me too movement maybe 2017 or something.

And then Duke By Default comes out like 2018. So they like to use it to be able to just talk about why that book does such a beautiful job of navigating that relationship. That could have been very tricky. Particularly when those in power relations, like we found out with Harvey Weinstein, were manipulating their position and having non-consensual sex with people.

Andrea Martucci: And I think in A Duke By Default, too, it is very much mitigated by the fact that Portia is like independently wealthy and it's an internship. If this doesn't work out, she's not financially dependent upon this internship. She has other options, which I think would be very different from an employee employer relationship in a text where the character who is the employee is like really financially dependent. This is really important to keep this job. That's where like the coercive element would start to play a bigger part.

Julie Moody-Freeman: Yes.

Andrea Martucci: So I think definitely, as you're pointing to, these are conscious choices that Alyssa Cole is making  to manage that in the political economy that she wrote in.

Julie Moody-Freeman: That is right. Beautiful. And she does it beautifully. I love that book for that.

Andrea Martucci: Can we talk about semiotics?

My takeaway from what Kellner said about semiotics was about images and about who plays these parts and what are their attributes and what does that say about our values?

So who is the enemy? Who is the villain?  So a common thing that comes up in some romance novels is the villain is a promiscuous woman or a fat person, or a poor person or something. And so like how texts actually construct that  binary, I think is really important.

I recently read The Secular Scripture and something that Northrop Frye talks about is in genre, the polarity between "the [00:40:00] virtuous us and the vicious them." And what I was thinking about, like symbolically, how texts represent goodness and and evil and how in the context of the approach Kellner is talking about and that challenging the ideology of the powerful.

How, How important it is on a textual level to really look closely at like how those characters are constructed, like who was, who the narrative tells us as good and who the narrative tells us is bad.

Julie Moody-Freeman: Yeah. I like one of the books, because there are these shortcuts signs that we don't even realize, and Felicia Mason uses it beautifully in a book it's called, I think For The Love of You and in, For The Love of You, you have this heroine who her parents died, her grandmother raises her. She becomes involved with a football player, becomes pregnant and her aunt belongs to a church.

And when the young woman becomes pregnant, she totally banishes her from the house. Cause it's a shame for her to get pregnant, right. The guy dies and she has twins. She gets on welfare. The beautiful thing that Felicia Mason does in this book is eventually the heroine is able to go to college. She raises her children. She works at a law firm. She's doing well for herself. She's not rich, but she's doing well but she's able to get off welfare because of an organization, a center that helped people on welfare, to get jobs, et cetera.

What Felicia Mason did in that book is she sorta used these signs. So the heroine, having being helped by this organization, she gives talks and she gives talks to a corporations that the center is trying to bring on, to work in collaboration with them to help other people who are on welfare.

So at her talks, she shows this video. And in the video, it talks about representation, right? And Felicia Mason has this sort of visual running through where are these signs of what somebody on welfare looks like, right? These shortcuts signs. Now, the book is challenging that, but I love how Felicia Mason is able [00:42:30] to turn those signs on themselves.

So for example, you have a man with a big beer belly, beer gut and he's with the wife. There are tons of children around them and they're in total poverty, right? So there are these shortcuts signs where you don't say welfare but for people in their head, welfare means, Oh, they have a ton of children and they're just not working and they live off people.

So that's what a textual reading would bring to that and then how once they're done and I'm back into the novel, right? So they're showing the video, they're showing the video of all these people. You have these signs that sorta indicate people on welfare, they cut off the video and then the heroine says.

These are the images, but I was on welfare. She's dressed out in suits, professional looking professional, and everybody goes, Oh, they would never have imagined that she was. I think that, that novel, like if when you think about semiotics and you think about what Kellner is saying about the importance of textual analysis and using that part of her doing that helps to even help a reader looking at it, because this book was published like in 1995 or 96, it was right at the beginning of when you're getting Arabesque, right, from Kensington that's coming out and if you do this textual analysis, you can say, why is Felicia Mason doing this?

She's talking to readers at the time. Okay. Now I'm going to bring in some political economy with this textual analysis. At the time, the idea of the welfare queen had been used by Reagan. It had been used by Bush to manipulate people and how they thought about Black people.

And so in that book, I see Felicia Mason's project. When you dig into it, knowing what the time what's happening in the time and that there are these images of the welfare queen, she is breaking those stereotypes and laying it out, giving you the signs of what people think a person on welfare looks like, and then challenging it . But also then saying that it's not just about representation, but that people on welfare are not on welfare because they're lazy. They're on welfare because of certain systems. But if we offer, like for example, the center offers this help this assistance to get people on their [00:45:00] feet, to give them not only access to food, but access to childcare access.

That's how the heroine is able to pull herself up. She's able to pull herself up because these things were set in place to help her and then you pass it on. I think that's the way in which you would use textual analysis and layer it with political economy to be able to get that more complex reading of what's going on.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Yeah. That's a really fantastic example. Talking specifically about audience reception I thought Kellner had interesting points about how, so ethnographic research is when a researcher actually asks a population, how they feel about things and you're getting their words, their take on it. And he makes this point about how active audiences are not uninfluenced.

Just because an audience says, Oh yeah no, like I read this, but I know the difference between fantasy and reality and this does not influence me at all. Does not necessarily mean that it's true. We've already talked about  okay, look, we all live in the world, we've all received these cultural messages about how we're supposed to feel about things.

And one thing I started thinking about here was that readers of romance specifically have this understanding of like a scripted fantasy that there are things that we are taught to want and taught to be repulsed by, or at least feel like, weird about. And how, in ethnographic research, like you're taking in what people say they think about something, but then there is that layer of huh, but what are you really reacting to here?

If we dig down deeper, what's the root cause of why you feel this way about reading or why you feel this way about this book.

I think what Duke By Default does that's really interesting is in romance, there is this idea of the fairytale Prince coming to sweep Cinderella off her feet.

And this is  a cultural script that many readers have received over and over again, because it is pervasive in pop culture and culture. And the deserving princess. Who has been meek and submissive and hardworking, et cetera will be saved. And I love that what Alyssa Cole did in her text is that she really challenged that scripted fantasy by her Cinderella is not helpless.

She is not poor she's [00:47:30] not needing to be saved. She saves herself. She saves him. They deconstruct,  instead of striving at all costs to be a member of the monarchy or the aristocracy, like when Tavish becomes a Duke, it's not yay. This will solve all of our problems.

It's wow, this actually creates more problems and maybe we can, re-imagine what this looks like. We don't have to do dukedom the way it's always been done. Like we can reimagine this. And I think that that is so interesting. How Alyssa Cole is both playing into and liberating the audience from their scripted fantasy.

Julie Moody-Freeman: Yes. Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: So she does it in a text and I'm wondering like from an audience reception level if  - this was a hugely popular book , I didn't go look at reviews, but it's probably not a huge wild guess to imagine that most people who read it were like, I love this book.

And I think that it's interesting because I know that Alyssa Cole is incredibly aware of the political economy. And how she sort of manages to both give the audience what they want. And yet also I think push them to reimagine what they should want  is so interesting because she's so conscious.

Julie Moody-Freeman: Yeah, she really is. I know. Students for this particular book, for some reason, they focus in on the ADHD. I was telling her that, that when they present or when they do papers, they focus on that and they focus on the issue of the me too movement and the boss.

Andrea Martucci: Interesting.

Julie Moody-Freeman: And then, one of the things that they also focus on they ask the question about Meghan Markle.

Andrea Martucci: Oh, yes. Cause wait, so this came out in 2018. When did Meghan and Harry get, married?

Julie Moody-Freeman: I think it, didn't happen that same summer. I feel like it was happening around the same time. And I was wondering, did she publish it? Did that have anything to do with it?

Andrea Martucci: I think because of the production cycle, I don't think she could have written it after knowing Meghan Markle would be whatever, a princess.

Julie Moody-Freeman: And she came in her interviews. She always talks about how it feels weird because she'll write about stuff and then it like, it'll happen almost like if she's predicting. So she talks about that in the podcast.

Andrea Martucci: We're all swimming in the same water, right?

Julie Moody-Freeman: Yes, that's right.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And so I [00:50:00] think about that with the podcast. Like sometimes I will have an episode that I like recorded months earlier and it's just up to come out and something will happen where something's like a topic of discussion and I'm like, I swear to God, I didn't like it, but it's just because it's there. That's, it's the conversation that exists, right?

Julie Moody-Freeman: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: So ADHD. So I, we do this when we were talking on the phone, but I have to mention this because basically A Duke By Default helped me get diagnosed with ADD. And I haven't mentioned this on the podcast, but you can hear me, so first I have a conversation with Bree from Kit Rocha and she's mentioning, having ADD and A Duke By Default and helping Alyssa Cole realize that that she has ADHD.

And I'm like listening to this and I'm like da da , okay. All right. And then I'm talking to Tasha L.  Harrison about Duke By Default. Cause we're like actually having a discussion about it and Tasha's talking about like her experience with ADHD and as she was talking about it and I had just read the book and reading the book, I didn't necessarily see myself so much, but hearing Tasha talk about things, I was like, Oh my God. Like you can hear me in the episode, realize I think, and then I basically had like a six month period where I tried to get diagnosed and I did get diagnosed.

And so like, I think what's so interesting about her putting that in there is now how cyclically having that conversation about what ADD or ADHD can look like in adult women out there has,  the conversation among friends helped her realize it and write the book. And then that conversation in romance novels is helping other people, like readers, like me, understand myself and  understand these things.

And I think that it's all of these things like, so like political economy, like we live at a point in time where there are communities of like-minded people who you know, in A Duke By Default there's what is it Hot Mess something it's like a YouTube channel where she's watching and figuring out what ADHD is.

And so like that kind of in the text, but also that's like a real thing that's happening out in the world, a greater acceptance of being able to have public conversation about neuro divergence, online communities, the ability to put this into a romance novel,  hitting all of these [00:52:30] things, right?

Like where  would not ever have a heroine in a romance novel published in 1990, have this happened for so many reasons.

Julie Moody-Freeman: I think I'm not sure if in the 1990s, I don't know if I can speak to that, but what I can say is the beauty about this. One of the things he talks about Kellner talks about is, part of the study it studies the impact on how audiences read and interpret media culture. And it would seem that in a case like this would be a wonderful way to read to use audience reception, to talk about how these books build community and how they build, particularly with people who say oh, these sorts of fluff, they're fluff sort of fluff readings.

Women have learned a lot and been able to build a lot from this. I think that might be a way to approach it.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I'm thinking about  something you said early in our conversation about how everything is complicated. There's no clear cut answers on any of these questions we have. Like we can never cover anything completely thoroughly -

Julie Moody-Freeman: Of course though, there is a caveat that I tell students because then students think it's a free for all. Again, I go back to  what he said when he argued that critical cultural studies attack sexism, racism bias. And criticizes texts that promote any kind of domination or oppression. I make that like really explicit in the class that is not something that we can debate about.

Whether or not a racist act, you're not, you're allowed to do a racist act or whether or not it's acceptable for you to rape somebody. There are some definites, there are some definite things that we are clear about. But I think  in talking about the multi-perspective and their multiple readings, yes. We can bring multiple readings, but we're clear on what is rape and what is not a -

Andrea Martucci: I don't want to get too far afield from Black romance, which is your focus. But just one example, because it's a very well known example, is  The Flame and the Flower. You don't need to understand too much about it other than the quote-unquote hero rapes, the heroine, mistaking her for a sex worker and they get married and over the course of the novel she somehow manages to convince him to treat her like [00:55:00] a human person. And this is often brought up as really changing the popular romance genre in a dramatic way and moving  at least single title  in a sexually explicit direction.

And so thinking through political economy, you could look at the way rape is used in that story.

And you could discuss women were not allowed culturally to enjoy sex, not with their husband or with a person who loved them. And so this was a way to discuss sex, but not have her be considered by the audience to be immoral or something. Like you could have that discussion.

And then you look at the text and you're like, yes, that is rape. And and you can say why didn't people in the seventies have a huge problem with this? And it's like, okay because they also lived in the society that,

Julie Moody-Freeman: That's right. That's exactly right. Couldn't even, I don't think, in this early seventies, women couldn't even have their own credit card. Could they even buy a home? You're right. So if you think about it, yes, that would be a really productive way at least I, if I was teaching it using Douglas Kellner and how he talks about the multi-perspective critical cultural studies, that's definitely an approach that I would take.

I would want them to be able to look at that time, look at that time period, look at what was going on to be able to understand why a book would come out like that. You could do even do comparisons with other books of the time to see if there's a pattern of those coming out. But you could also look and see that there could have been Kellner talks about how there's counter culture, counter hegemony. And so there might be books that are completely in opposition to that. So just because that came out when did that come out?

Andrea Martucci: 72?

Julie Moody-Freeman: Okay. So that came out then just because that book had that does not mean that all the others did.

Andrea Martucci: And yet it was so popular. So it must've been speaking to something.

Julie Moody-Freeman: Yes. Exactly. I am trying to find this video, Oh, my heavens what's her name? Vivian Stephens is in this documentary. Love Train, they're on the Love Train. And Barbara Cartland is talking about how her girls have to be virgins. And all that kind of stuff.

And then they have Vivian Stephens on the other side, who are saying, no, we don't want the American.

The film is like over an hour long and they're on this train and it's nothing but like romance writers and stuff on the train. But I'm talking about it because I'm saying that even in the period when, Barbara [00:57:30] Cartland was alive and she had her own view of what a heroine should be like, but then other people had other visions of what a heroine is like.

If we were to study rape in Flame and the Flower, we could study the time period and what might have been going on in the time period that type of book would emerge, but I'd also be interested in comparing it to others and see if that was a common thread or if there were these little pockets that were resisting and pushing back against that.

The reason I say that too, is I did this paper in another book Romance Fiction and American Culture: Love as a practice of freedom. Edited by William Gleason and Eric Selinger. In it I analyzed Brenda Jackson it was a one of her Madaris books.

And I talk about, the use of condoms. I analyze Brenda Jackson's, one of the Madaris books that comes out in 19, maybe 1995, somewhere around there, in 1996.

But it's in the late 1990s where she has her characters using condoms in there. And I wanted to see if only her books were using condoms. And Eric told me about some other research that was done, where when they studied different books a majority of the books, particularly by white writers were not necessarily using condoms.

And it helped me to be able to have somebody who had done a study. They, their study was like  a quantitative, my studies tend to be sort of qualitative, but they actually studied a number of the books and went in and coded to find out which ones, which one used condoms, how many didn't, how many did.

And it was useful to me doing my qualitative study because I was then able to argue that at the time why is it that Brenda Jackson is talking about condoms and related to the issue of the high numbers of Black folks who were contracting HIV AIDS.

And so my argument in that text was that while other novels, a majority of them still weren't using it, the writer -and I wasn't sure then if the editors were encouraging it, but they must have been doing that so that yes, they could have topics where sensuality and sex and you could have that within the book, but it was almost as [01:00:00] teaching protection and creative, beautiful ways to incorporate it so that you can say to the Black readers, Black women readers at the time, use the condom, but it wasn't like didactic.

You must use the condom. She was able to creatively incorporate it into the book. So I wrote that chapter and everything. And I didn't know, I had some of the political economy, but  I couldn't answer all the production questions, but when I did a podcast with her I didn't even intend it.

It came out.  I didn't ask the question. She talked about how she had nieces that she knew were going to read the book, and that's partly why she did it. And then I had talked to Sandra Kitt because she talks about HIV AIDS in one of her books. I think it's Suddenly, and she talks about, I think then in that interview, I asked her whether or not the editors were pushing it and it did come out that yes, the editors, they did have that conversation about incorporating it.

I may not have gotten all of it in that article, but being able to ask those questions about production,  it helps you to understand why the use of condoms was incorporated in the 1990s, when, for the most part, it wasn't in other books. And it was in order to protect Black women and Black men who have, may have been reading it and who were really, the rates were high at the time.

And I was able to bring in government statistics and numbers of people who were being affected during that time period in which they were writing. So that's how I use all these parts that Kellner talks about.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I really appreciate also the intersectional understanding of that. Like it's it's not just a gender thing, like women it's that there's something different about Black women's experience and sexuality and understanding of sexuality or portrayal of sexuality from white women. And I will have to read that article. I would love to see the data on that, because I think that there was this idea of like white, pure female sexuality, where portraying them as asexual almost, and ignorant of sex. And, the idea of a white women in particular, like having condoms in her bedside table was like, Whoa there would be all sorts of words associated with that behavior.

Julie Moody-Freeman: And what's interesting too, though, in this is that I do when I study it in this particular book she the [01:02:30] heroine has the condom, but in the heat of the moment she forgets the condom. But the hero does not forget, but it's incorporated in the narrative as a means of protecting her, that if he loves her, he will use the condom to protect her.

Andrea Martucci: Then it's they're both active in it, right? Like she had it, but he, as you said, wanted to protect her and thus was like, go get that out, right? Hey we to pull it out.

Julie Moody-Freeman: Yeah. She still forgot it  whereas if you compare it to maybe some other books from other writers or maybe even later Brenda Jackson, you know woman participates also in putting on condoms.

So there are so many readings that you can, that's what I mean by, yes there, there's a caveat in, it's not free for all right. It's not a free for all where racism is accepted, sexism, et cetera. And that we can do those kinds of readings because in terms of the cultural studies, the reading is clear that it's a challenge. You are challenging systems of oppression. And with the work that I do in terms of Black feminist theory and critical race theory, that is central to it. And I try to, and I make that very clear.

However, being able to layer on the different things. So looking at how, okay. This early novel by Brenda Jackson's still the woman is, she's still a little reticent.

But she still sort of leaves that part of it up to the man. Because I could see students coming like, well, " she didn't put on a condom. She just completely, she just becomes this little simpering,  sex made her completely forget herself and responsibility."

We could still bring that reading to it. But we could also bring another reading, multi-perspective we could bring another reading with what might the writer be trying to say about Black males, right? In terms of their protection of women, et cetera.

And what might be also be saying to women readers about what Black men should do, that Black men should protect. So you see how you're getting all these. And that's what I love. That's what I love to do when even when I'm writing my own work, yeah we could read it from this, at a superficial level it might appear this way, but then we can bring another reading if we understand that she's looking at representations of Black men and responsibility, and she clearly talked about that, that she wanted her nieces because she knew they're going to sneak and read the book.

She wanted her nieces to be able to see, this is what a Black man [01:05:00] will do. If he loves you, he will protect you. He will not try to have sex with you without a condom. You bring that other reading, you bring that other level to it.

Andrea Martucci: Love ending on this part because I think that is the to go back to the goal of this reading is to pull out the ways we can liberate ourselves to understand things differently.

And I think audience reception, I think maybe when condoms started appearing in romances more, some people probably grumbled and said, Oh, this ruins the fantasy (disgruntled noises)

Julie Moody-Freeman: Yes! That's right!

Andrea Martucci: " Of course I know I should use condoms in real life, but I don't want it in my romance novels." like you could.  I read a study, it was a quantitative study done on romance readers where reading scenes where characters have sex without a condom leads to a decrease in condom usage.

Julie Moody-Freeman: What?

Andrea Martucci: Yes. I'm trying to get my hands on this.

Julie Moody-Freeman: Yes.

Andrea Martucci: Thing because I will send it to you.

Julie Moody-Freeman: I will help you to find it.

Andrea Martucci: Yes, because I think that points to there's this audience reception you have to look deeper from what people say, because when we understand that media generally influences us and how we feel about things and how we see things, you can see the choice to not include condom usage as a destructive choice. Some people might say, "that's the fantasy that I want," but you can analyze that and say "I understand that you feel this way. However, it is a destructive choice because it, it's influencing you to believe that it's like not sexy to use a condom. And like, that's not emancipatory.

Julie Moody-Freeman: It's so funny that you're talking about that because no one, I read books and it's not said, I go back. I literally, you could hear the break, the break, go on. And I go back in the pages. Where was it? Where was that condom? Searching, I am searching to make sure that it's there.

I don't know why I do that now, but I'm like really conscious. I'm like this writer didn't say anything. And then I start thinking wonder why what's the purpose of this? And I remember Brenda Jackson also saying in an interview, and this is, that's why it's so good to be able to hear from them, is she said , and when I did not use a condom in a book, it was for a reason, because I wanted her to get pregnant.

Andrea Martucci: Like within the text the author is going to make choices based on like all sorts of circumstances. But but if you build a character, it's like Chekhov's character's gun. If you build a character, who's like sexually responsible modern woman, you're expecting to see certain things or certain decisions being made or [01:07:30] considered at least.

It's not like they're Regency virgins who don't know how babies are made.

Julie Moody-Freeman: And even then now you read some and they have the sheepskin or whatever it is,

Andrea Martucci: catgut condom, a French letter. Oh, sorry. It's- reusable condoms just to make me shudder.

Perhaps expectedly  I don't know if we quite cracked this nut wide open, cause there's so much more to say about all of this,  but I hope that having this conversation introduced some people to this way of thinking,

And now Julie, obviously people should check out Black Romance Podcast to hear the fantastic interviews that you had with both recent romance authors, like, Rebekah Weatherspoon, as well as Vivian Stephens, the legendary editor of romance, and also Sandra Kitt, so authors who were some of the early Black authors publishing romance. People should definitely check that out.

JPRS issue is coming out when?

Julie Moody-Freeman: We're hoping that issue which tentatively is called Black Romance: Special Issue, maybe June.

We have our fingers crossed. We're in the process of editing now.

Andrea Martucci: And that's co-edited by you and Margo Hendricks aKA Elysabeth Grace.

Julie Moody-Freeman: That's right. That's right. Who is also in the podcast.

Andrea Martucci: Yes, she was. She ended season one, right?

Julie Moody-Freeman: Yeah. She's in the podcast. Rochelle Alers is in the podcast. Beverly Jenkins. And I have to begin season two, but I need to get the journal out first and then I'll begin season two.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And is there anywhere else where people can find you online and connect with you?

Julie Moody-Freeman: Yes, they can find me. It'll be @BLK_romance on Twitter and on Instagram.

And of course we're also the Center for Black Diaspora at DePaul. We have a website and the podcasts are posted up there on the center's website too, since, the center sponsors at least sponsored season one. So I can be found.

Andrea Martucci: Well, go find Julie, everybody. And thank you so much for being here with me today and and teaching me, introducing me to this fantastic text. And thank you so much for all that you're doing for romance.

Julie Moody-Freeman: Thanks so much, Andrea was fun talking with you.

Andrea Martucci: It was fun talking with you.


Marker [01:09:48] Thanks for listening to episode 82 of Shelf Love and thank you to Julie for joining me. A transcript and show notes for this episode can be found on

[01:10:00] I want to come back to one aspect that we talked about in this episode that I think is just really, really important to focus on. And it's about understanding if the text is emancipatory or destructive . And so I'm going to read directly from Kellner's text here. He says, "Furthermore, I would warn against a tendency to romanticize the active audience by claiming that all audiences produce their own meanings and denying that media culture may have powerful manipulative effects." And so you guys know that I love talking about how what we read in fiction or what we were exposed to in popular culture really changes how we interpret the world around us and other cultural artifacts, like romance, novels, and Kellner continues and says, "there is a tendency within the cultural studies tradition of reception research to dichotomize between dominant and oppositional readings."

He goes on to say, "although this can be a useful distinction, there is a tendency in cultural studies to celebrate resistance, per se, without distinguishing between types and forms of resistance. A similar problem resides with indiscriminate celebration of audience pleasure in certain reception studies.

Dot, dot, dot..., "but difficult discriminations must be made as to whether the resistance, oppositional reading, or pleasure in a given experience is progressive or reactionary, emancipatory or destructive."

Basically, just because you take pleasure in it or just because the audience takes pleasure in it does not always necessarily mean that it is necessarily emancipatory.

So I hope that you will dig into Douglas Kellner's article. I think there are tons of things in here that are food for thought. I certainly find that to be a really useful framework for thinking about how we think about texts or readings as either progressive or reactionary, emancipatory or destructive. And without going into a whole essay, now I will leave it at that.

So thank you so much for joining me today. If you have any thoughts on the show, I'd love for you to reach out to me. You can send an email to [email protected]. This episode is produced by me, Andrea Martucci. Thank you to Shelf Love's editorial advisory board members, Katrina Jackson, and Tasha L. Harrison.

Next week, you are [01:12:30] cordially invited to the first meeting of the Joyless Hags Book Club. Tasha, Katrina, and I get joyfully critical about Alien Mate Experiment by Zenobia Renquist. You are not going to want to miss that. Our conversation is out of this world and not coming back.

That's all for this week. Black lives matter. Stay safe, stay mad, and keep reading romance.