'Reader, I Married Him': The Evolution of Romance Fiction from 1740 to the Present (EAS3225)

StaffDr Joseph Crawford - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesNone
Co-requisitesNone
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module aims to use the history of the romance novel in order to tackle some fairly large questions. Where do literary genres come from? How do they become popular, and why is there so frequently a mismatch between those works which are most critically respected, and those which are most widely read? What is the role of gender in the formation of literary genres and marketplaces, and why do the lowest-status genres so often seem to be the ones which are written by and for women? How and why do modern novelists draw upon the literary heritage of the past, and does it matter if they distort that heritage in the process? By studying this module, you should gain a greater understanding of a number of crucial issues within contemporary literary studies, including: the relationship between canonical literature and genre fiction, the relationship between novels and their film adaptations, the unique problems and opportunities created by the rise of mass-market fiction and ‘best-sellers’, and the overlapping roles of gender and genre in the contemporary literary marketplace.

 

The module is structured chronologically, exploring the history of the prose love story from the eighteenth century to the present day. We will investigate whether we should read this history as simply one of decline, or whether we may be able to find other, perhaps more sympathetic, ways of understanding the modern romance genre and the women who read and write it. Is the romance a feminist or anti-feminist genre? What should we make of its troubling tendency to romanticise acts of sexual violence? Can we, and should we, read Twilight in the same way that we read Jane Eyre? If not, how should we read it? If a hundred million people love a book which we, as literary critics, dismiss, then what does that say about them – and what does it say about us?

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the romance genre, and a critical understanding of some of the key themes, topics and debates that emerge in the texts;
  • 2. demonstrate an engagement with significant critical debates surrounding issues such as the relationship between canonical literature and genre fiction, gender and literary status, the effects of changing economic situations on the production of literature, and the adaptation of novels into films;
  • 3. demonstrate an understanding of how the romance genre has developed, historically, from the eighteenth century to the present day;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. demonstrate an advanced ability to analyse genre fiction and to relate its concerns and its modes of expression to its historical context.
  • 5. demonstrate an advanced ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history;
  • 6. demonstrate an advanced ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, especially those of feminist criticism, and to apply these ideas to literary and film texts;

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. through seminar work and presentations, demonstrate advanced communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups;
  • 8. through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, an advanced capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose;
  • 9. through research for seminars, essays, and presentations demonstrate advanced proficiency in information retrieval and analysis.

Syllabus plan

The syllabus will move chronologically through the history of romance fiction. The first four weeks will be devoted to canonical eighteenth- and nineteenth-century texts such as Pamela, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights, which strongly influenced the subsequent development of the romance genre. The next three weeks will examine best-selling authors such as E.M. Hull and Barbara Cartland in order to explore the emergence of the romance as a genre of mass-market popular fiction in the early twentieth century. Finally, the last four weeks will investigate the ways in which the romance genre has developed since the 1950s, with special reference to the subgenres of queer romance, young adult romance, bodice-rippers, and ‘chick lit’, in order to chart out its current trajectories and speculate on where the romance may go from here. 

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad
462540

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching33SeminarsWeekly lectures and Seminars devoted to the main readings in each week.
Guided Independent Study13Viewings of set films
Guided Independent Study33Study group meetings and preparation
Guided Independent Study70Seminar preparation (individual)
Guided Independent Study151Reading, research, and essay preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
None

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams
1000

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Scholarship survey and essay plan302000 words1-6, 8Written feedback plus tutorial follow-up
Group Presentation2020 minutes1-7, 9Instant feedback in seminar supplemented by feedback sheet
Essay503000 words1-6, 8-9Written feedback plus tutorial follow-up
0
0
0
0

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Scholarship survey and essay planScholarship survey and essay plan1-6, 8Referral/deferral period
Group presentationEITHER presentation materials and 750-word reflective piece OR essay (1500 words) on presentation topic1-9 / 1-6, 8-9Mitigation Deadline / Referral/deferral period
EssayEssay1-6, 8-9Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Primary Texts

Samuel Richardson, Pamela (Oxford)

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (Oxford)

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (Oxford)

Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (Oxford)

E.M. Hull, The Sheik (Virago – if unavailable, a free version can be found online on Project Gutenberg, at http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/7031/pg7031.html)

Barbara Cartland, any historical romance novel of your choice (preferably one from the 1950s, if available)

Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt (also sold as Carol) (Virago)

Kathleen Woodiwiss, The Flame and the Flower (Avon, or other editions as available)

Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones’s Diary (Picador)

Stephanie Meyer, Twilight (Atom)

 

Secondary Texts

 

Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen

Heather Glen, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Brontës

Deborah Lutz, The Dangerous Lover

Joseph McAleer, Passion’s Fortune: The Story of Mills and Boon

Tania Modleski, Loving With a Vengeance

Janice Radway, Reading the Romance

Pamela Regis, The Natural History of the Romance Novel

 

(A full list of suggested secondary reading is available on the module’s ELE page)

 

ELE – http://vle.exeter.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=3836

Module has an active ELE page?

Yes

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Web based and electronic resources: ECCO, LION, JSTOR, Project MUSE, Journal of Popular Romance Studies (http://jprstudies.org/)

Available as distance learning?

No

Origin date

19/1/13

Last revision date

07/02/2018

Key words search

Romance Fiction; Genre Fiction; Popular Fiction; Love Stories; Women’s Writing; Eighteenth Century; Nineteenth Century; Twentieth Century; Contemporary Fiction.