Strange Stirrings, Strange Yearnings: The Flame and the Flower, Sweet Savage Love, and the Lost Diversities of Blockbuster Historical Romance

Publication year

to be honest, what we can offer in these pages is as much a polemical call to arms as it is an academic argument. It is long past time for scholars of popular romance fiction, and of American culture more generally, to take seriously the work of Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers and the other original "Avon Ladies" (Laurie McBain, Joyce Verrette, Johanna Lindsey, Shirlee Busbee, and the inimitable Bertrice Small), and to read their novels as situated within and responding to the same historical moment as foundational feminist thinkers (Betty Friedan, Kate Millett, Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem, and Susan Brownmiller) and foundational sex-positive authors (Betty Dodson, Nancy Friday). We do not mean that the novels should be treated as primary sources that prove the arguments laid out in the secondary source feminist manifestos of the 1970s. Quite the contrary. Rather, we must examine both the novels and the manifestos as primary source representations of the cultural conversations of the 1970s about gendered oppression, rape culture and practice, female subjectivity, and women's sexual pleasure. (90)