11 April 2006

Literature and Romance

On Friday there was an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about the reading patterns of men and women. No surprise that women read books about relationship (Austen, the Bronte sisters, etc) while men, if they read fiction at all, read authors full of existential angst (Camus, Salinger etc). Sure, it’s a gross generalisation but on the whole, it’s probably true. The writer made the point that all the major writing awards like the Booker are run by men while the main readership is women. It was ever thus.

One writer’s festival that’s run by a woman is the Sydney Writer’s Festival to be held in May. The program came out on Saturday and has, as usual, very little in the way of genre writing and none on romance or erotica. I don’t think I saw anything on science fiction either. Some on crime and quite a bit on writing for young people.

While I never expect romance or erotica to be taken seriously by the literary establishment, I still don’t get why they aren’t the least bit curious about why women buy romance in droves. Do they think we’re all suffering from false consciousness so should just be ignored as an embarrassment? This strange avoidance of analysing why women read romance seems a great subject for some enterprising feminist cultural theorist.

Some work has already been done, and I see that RWAmerica is funding some research in this area (Empowerment versus Oppression: 21st Century Views on Romance Novels edited by Sally Goade and to be published by Cambridge Scholars Press – RWA provided a grant to Jayashree Kamble whose research will appear in this anthology), but there is a curious lack of interest in the cultural studies area. Fifty percent of paperback sales are women’s fiction (read romance). There’s a good thesis in there.


At 20 April 2006 at 1:00 pm , Blogger Amra Pajalic said...

I find the festivals frustrating too. Sometimes they just don't seem to reflect the real-life interests of readers and it's all about very, very literary pursuits. Still the SWF is much better than Melbourne which is called the Blue Rinse set because it's geared toward the more mature-minded reader.

I've got a few events picked out and am focussing more on the young adult panels to see if there's anything useful for my current project.


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