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Love as the Practice of Freedom: Romance Fiction and American Culture

 (More about event)

A conference organized by William Gleason, English.  Co-sponsored by CSR.  Click on the title to link to the conference website for more information and to register.

Location: Betts (N101), Architecture Building

Date/Time: 04/23/09 at 8:00 pm - 04/24/09 at 6:30 pm

This two-day symposium will be the first national conference to focus on the multiple ways that romance novels—long the most maligned of literary texts—can provide rich critical insight for the study of American culture, politics, and society.  This explicitly contextual, interdisciplinary, and American focus represents a rich new direction for the field of romance fiction studies.

Indeed, our aim is nothing less than to remap the field itself by bringing distinguished scholars and rising stars from a range of disciplines—and who draw on critical methodologies from such diverse fields as American Studies, Critical Race Studies, and Gender and Sexuality Studies—together with prestigious authors, editors, and other critical members of the romance reading and writing community to interrogate such emerging, still under-examined topics as the Christian underpinnings of American romance fiction, the racial politics of the genre (both in texts and in the publishing industry), the distinctive negotiations we find in romance between progressive and reactionary visions of sexuality, and the ways romance authors, like those in other genres, artfully engage with American history and popular culture.

The first half of our conference title derives from the influential 1994 essay of the same name by African American scholar, poet, and activist bell hooks.  As hooks—a self-acknowledged romance novel reader—explains in the essay’s concluding paragraph: “The moment we choose to love we begin to move against domination, against oppression.  The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others.  That action is the testimony of love as the practice of freedomâ€Â? (Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations (Routledge 1994), 250).  Our conference will examine the ways in which romance fiction might be understood to resist rather than perpetuate oppression, but also—as our editorial addition of a question mark suggests—to liberate romance scholarship from the need to defend the genre against all comers and at all costs.

Category: Conference

Department: CSR