Taming the Perfect Beast: the Monster as Romantic Hero in Contemporary Fiction

Master of Arts
Cleveland State University
Publication year

Here's the abstract:

This thesis examines the contemporary phenomenon of the paranormal romance, as exemplified by Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. Although immensely popular, the series has drawn harsh criticism for its writing style and for the sexual politics portrayed in the novels. Readers of the series have been subjected to similar harsh criticism for enjoying these works in spite of the aforementioned issues. Careful examination of the books, however, reveals that the source of their popularity draws from several factors: the use of a narrative structure known as the Rebirth scenario, particularly popular in romance novels; an inverted form of the traditional Beauty and the Beast narrative, in which the Beast is princely on the outside and bestial within, and in which the heroine is the one who undergoes transformation; and a heroine who, through her apparent lack of empowerment, may actually empower her readers by functioning as an avatar with whom they are capable of fully identifying and sympathizing.

Further, this thesis traces the historical formation of the paranormal romance through the multiple genres that have contributed to its development, and examines the social forces that may have made the popularity of both a flawed heroine such as Bella Swan and a dangerous hero such as Edward Cullen inevitable. The segregation of the romance novel away from other fiction, along with the customary way in which it is derogated as inferior to other genres, emerges as a crucial factor in how the novels have been interrogated by their detractors. As this derogatory treatment is often extended to the novels’ fans, this thesis further suggests some ways in which those critics concerned about female empowerment may wish to re-evaluate the novels, the genres from which they draw, and the benefits that many readers may actually gain from reading them.