On Popular Romance, J. R. Ward, and the Limits of Genre Study

Publication year

This chapter argues that literary engagements with culture and readers cannot be appraised by considerations of the genre as a whole. A scholar who moves from study of a few romance novels to wholesale claims about the genre, and from there to analysis of the personal conduct and erotic choices of all romance readers, impoverishes her own argument. [...] I will begin by examining the rationale behind the domination of genre study in popular fiction, as opposed to its comparatively negligible influence in the study of literary fiction. I will then turn to a 2005 novel, Dark Lover, by J. R. Ward. Dark Lover reflects a complex relation between the ideology mobilized in support of patriarchal control between 2001 and 2005, and an eroticization of male homosocial culture that structures, and eventually disrupts, Ward's portrayal of normative heterosexual marriage. (60-61)

and "Dark Lover's construction of masculinity springs explicitly from the American response to 9/11 during the years immediately following the terrorist attacks" (66)