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FRIDAY SEMINAR SERIES | The Genre World of Romance in Twenty-First Century Australia



Start Date

23rd Sep 2016 1:00pm

End Date

23rd Sep 2016 2:00pm

Institute for the Study of Social Change logo

An Institute for the Study of Social Change and School of Social Sciences seminar

presented by

Dr Lisa Fletcher, University of Tasmania*
Dr Beth Driscoll, University of Melbourne
Dr Kim Wilkins, University of Queensland

The commercial significance of the romance genre in Australia stands in contrast to a striking, widespread lack of understanding of the cultural significance of Australian romance fiction both nationally and internationally. This paper reports on the findings from a project funded by the Romance Writers of America in 2015, which was the first phase of a larger project on Australian popular fiction (funded through an ARC Discovery Grant 2016-2018). Our aim in the first phase was to generate new knowledge about romance in Australia by asking this research question: how do the interactions between romance fiction texts and their national and international writing and publishing communities build and maintain the genre in Australia? We propose the concept of the “genre world” as an analytical tool for examining the relationship between the textual conventions by which we typically define genre and the conventional collective behaviours and activities that govern the production of genre texts.

“Genre world” is an adaptation of “art world,” coined by the sociologist Howard S. Becker in 1982. Becker uses the term to denote “the network of people whose cooperative activity, organized via their joint knowledge of conventional means of doing things, produces the kind of art works that art world is noted for” (xxiv). In this paper, we develop our concept of the “genre world” through a mixed methodology that combines textual analysis of three Australian romance novels with interviews of the “cast of characters” for these texts – the “cooperating network that radiates out from the work in question” (Becker 35). The texts for case studies were selected to provide a cross-section of the contemporary Australian romance genre world: Rebekah Turner’s Chaos Born (2012) is a paranormal romance, the author’s debut book, published by Harlequin Escape in digital format; Darkening Skies (2013), by Bronwyn Parry, is a work of romantic suspense by a midcareer author who has won national and international awards, published by Hachette; and The Winter Bride (2014) by Anne Gracie is a historical romance published in both the US and Australia, by an established, award-winning author who is a past president of Romance Writers Australia. Our interviews with these authors and some of their editors, publishers and writing group members, combined with our textual analysis of the novels, suggest that Australian romance writers are acutely aware of their position in both a national and international industry, and gain significant professional development within the Australian romance community, which informs their writing in meaningful ways.

Lisa Fletcher, Beth Driscoll, and Kim Wilkins were recipients of the 2015 Romance Writers of America Academic Research Grant for their project, “The Genre World of Romance in 21st-Century Australia”. Together with David Carter (University of Queensland), they were awarded an Australia Research Council Discovery Project (2016-2018) to conduct the first systematic examination of 21st-century popular fiction with a focus on crime fiction, popular romance fiction, and fantasy. Lisa is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Tasmania. She is the author of Historical Romance Fiction: Heterosexuality and Performativity (2008) and the editor of Popular Fiction and Spatiality: Reading Genre Settings (forthcoming). Beth is Lecturer in Publishing and Communications at the University of Melbourne, the author of The New Literary Middlebrow: Tastemakers and Reading in the Twenty-First Century (2014), and editor of a recent special issue of the journal Logos on publishing in Australia. Kim is Senior Lecturer and Program Director of the Writing, Editing, and Publishing Program at the University of Queensland Q, and the author of 27 popular fiction novels under her own name and under the pseudonym Kimberley Freeman

*Presenting Author Dr Lisa Fletcher is Senior Lecturer in English and Deputy Head of the School of Humanities at the University of Tasmania. Her research interests include popular fiction studies (especially romance), nineteenth-century popular illustration, island studies, and intersections between literature and geography.

Friday 23 September 2016, 1.00pm to 1.50pm

Room 346, Humanities Building, Sandy Bay Campus

Dr Louise Grimmer for more information or directions to the venue.

This free seminar is open to all members of the public as well as University staff and students - there is no need to RSVP. We look forward to seeing you!

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