Shelf Love

The Year of the Joyful Hag: Season 3 Is Here!

Short Description

What's love got to do with it? Tina Turner famously asked this question and while I think she meant it rhetorically, I think the answer is: quite a bit. Except it seems like we're still figuring out what romantic love is and questioning if it even exists in the first place. Here's what you can expect coming up in season 3 of Shelf Love.

Show Notes

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Andrea Martucci: [00:00:00] Romantic love, even when it's not the main focus makes an appearance in fictional stories across media, whether they be on the screen, the stage, the page, the wrestling ring, and even commercials.

What's love got to do with it? Tina Turner famously asked this question and while I think she meant it rhetorically, I think the answer is: quite a bit. Except it seems like we're still figuring out what romantic love is and questioning if it even exists in the first place.

I'm Andrea Martucci host of Shelf Love, and I am thrilled to introduce you to season three of Shelf Love.

Season three will explore fictional stories of romantic love across media time and cultures. How do the stories we tell about romantic love reflect what we value and what we find meaningful? How does the structure and format of a romantic narrative satisfy or tap into the way that we process stories. And how does a story of romantic love become a playground to explore our deepest anxieties and desires and all those ambiguous emotions that we're still trying to define.

I'm unofficially calling season three, the year of the joyful hag.

I'll explain more about what that means in a moment, but it will make a bit more sense after explaining how we got here.

Here's the quick, "previously on" recap of how Shelf Love got to this point.

Season one of Shelf Love was focused on individual romance novel texts, using them as a lens to have a broader discussion of identity, culture, and love, but primarily focused on recently published exemplars of romance fiction. I was a new podcaster, bright eyed, bushy tailed, and discovering new things about how to podcast, what kinds of conversations I wanted to have, and really digging into a lot of the pre-existing discourse around romance fiction.

Season two focused more on tropes and repeated motifs within the romance genre and got critical about the patterns that emerged asking if they're a feature or a bug of the genre.

In the problematic favorite trope series, for example, I asked, do we enjoy these patterns because of their problematic nature, or in spite of them. I also increasingly invited romance scholars to share their expertise and help contextualize the history of the genre and different ways of studying the genre.

In retrospect, I'd call season two, the year of the joyless hag. If you've been listening to Shelf Love, you've probably picked up on my use of the joyless hag moniker as a tongue in cheek, reference to the idea that critical engagement with the problematic elements of a text somehow robs others of their joy and turns the critic, well, a joyless hag.

And I think what I was grappling with was how to respond to, or understand myself, how to process the pushback [00:03:00] that I got from some people who felt defensive about critical commentary on their escapism of choice. And maybe it was also wrapped up in my fear that I literally don't know how to enjoy things.

I do write research papers for fun, hashtag romance nerd.

Let's circle back to the year of the joy full hag. Earlier this summer, I created an infographic for a class that Dr. Maria DeBlassie is teaching. And in that infographic, I explored some of the ideas from season two about problematizing the things that we love and how the act of being critical is actually joyful in and of itself. And the process of articulating this in a succinct medium, I realized that I had also created an instruction manual for how I wanted to move forward in season three.

I was going to joyfully problematize and have fun doing it.

So basically I've nailed down my approach and my tone. We're here because we enjoy pop culture and the process of unpacking it is the fun part. In seasons one and two, I centered the conversation on romance novels but also used romance novels to talk about many things, unrelated to the topic that romance novels are best known for: their focus on exploring romantic love.

Season three is going to focus in specifically on romantic love, but then broaden out beyond just romance novels to any media that explores romantic love within a fictional story.

We'll be discussing stories with a visual component like movies and TV as well as stories in audio, written stories and multimedia fiction, as well as folklore and oral storytelling. And don't worry, we'll still be talking about romance novels in the mix, just not exclusively anymore.

I believe that critical engagement with pop culture conveys the respect and appreciation that I have for it. And that critical engagement adds to how much I enjoy it.

With pop culture, however, you can't rely on the tools or the measures that have been developed primarily to delineate the hierarchies of taste. So what that means is that critical engagement with pop culture requires understanding and respecting the genre, the sub genre and understanding audience expectations and understanding that the goals may differ as a result of all of those things.

So a film may satisfy audience expectations as a slasher film and utterly fail to succeed as a romantic comedy. Genre conventions often create shorthand signs that are indecipherable or confusing for the uninitiated, but they contain a wealth of meaning for the genre adherants whose opinion matters above all.

I certainly don't have the depth of knowledge required to bring that insight to every genre or media. So you'll be hearing from experts who are joyfully problematizing the genre that they love.

[00:06:00] In terms of delivering this content Shelf Love will also be adding more platforms to enable more dynamic content. That means videos on YouTube, more written first content. And of course the podcast feed, which is still going to be the core platform.

I'm also creating more Patreon exclusive content and having more conversations with folks on the Patreon Discord, which is a private message server through a platform called Discord. But the community Discord is really enabling deeper conversations and I'm really trying to focus my time over there rather than having, um, how shall we say shallower conversations on public social media. So if you enjoy the conversations on Shelf Love, and you're like, I wish I could talk to other people like this all the time, you know, and have more of that back and forth, not only with me, but other people who are listening to the podcast, please consider joining the Patreon. Tiers start at just $3 a month.

And we don't just talk about the podcast content. Obviously you sometimes discussions start based on things that were discussed on the podcast, but we have all sorts of conversations on there. And really it's just a group of awesome people who really want to critically engage with pop culture.

So check it out.

So here's a taste of what I have in store in season three and the questions I'm looking forward to exploring in the year of the joyful hag.

For example, how do we construct our ideas of romantic love or romance? How has the idea of romantic love changed over time and across cultures? How do romantic stories adapt based on the format or genre?

So for example, how does the jump from page to screen change a story such as a romance novel that has been adapted for the screen.

Recurring themes will include fantasy and authenticity in a postmodern world. And what it means when we say we want to escape into a story. Don't worry. There will be Baudrillard.

Season three, we'll include a recurring series called Tell Me About, in which an expert introduces me and you to new genres and sub genres of romantic stories across media.

You can catch a sneak peek of this series on Shelf Love's YouTube channel. Novelist, academic and soap super fan. Dr. Jodi McAlister shared how soap opera's structure explores romantic love, what audiences expect from the love stories, and how these stories make her feel. You can check that out on Shelf Love's YouTube channel.

Alongside all these other changes, new season new look. Shelf Love has updated branding that you'll see roll out across platforms. And that includes your podcast feed. So heads up, you're probably used to the yellow cover with the pink conversation bubbles. The new Shelf Love cover has a white background and different earthy toned colors in it.

So I'm just warning you in case you're looking at your podcast app and confused [00:09:00] because you're looking for that bright yellow cover.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me. It's truly, really just me having a rough idea of where I want to go, putting one episode out and then another, and figuring it out along the way. And I love to hear your feedback on episodes so that I can understand what topics resonate with you. I also want to take a moment to invite you to share the podcast with anyone you know who you think might enjoy this kind of deep dive into exploring romantic love in stories across media, especially as it's moving into a new direct ion.

Someone asked me recently how to describe Shelf Love listeners. And I think probably the best description is people who are curious. I don't think you necessarily have to be the biggest fan of, or be familiar with any of the books, movies, TV shows, et cetera, that we talk about to enjoy the conversation, primarily because I think the questions we'll be exploring are fairly universal or applicable or interesting in contrast to your own experience. You just have to be the kind of person who's curious and open-minded.

I'm so excited to share season three and you don't have to wait long because it is starting right away.

Thank you so much for spending time with me today, and don't forget to subscribe to Shelf Love on your favorite podcast app to get updates when new episodes are available. If you enjoy this content you can support Shelf Love on Patreon starting at just $3 a month. You can check that out at You can also sign up to get my free email newsletter, find recommendations and blog posts, and get transcripts for every single episode going back over a year at this point, all on my website, Shelf Love Podcast dot com. If you'd like to get in touch with me, you can email me at Andrea at Shelf Love Podcast dot com.

That's all for today. Bye.