Here's the abstract:
Romance writers do research—but what about romance readers? If they do, what does their “research” look like? In this talk, I will explore the kinds of learning that previous scholars have said (and, sometimes, worried) might be inspired by romance fiction, with an eye to how these relate to the teaching and learning at work in other popular genres. (Thomas Roberts’s argument that all popular fiction invites us to “Think With Tired Brains” about serious and interesting topics will be central to this discussion; his Aesthetics of Junk Fiction has been central to my romance pedagogy for the past four or five years.) I will then compare these critical accounts with the actual learning and research that my students and I engage in as we grapple with romance novels in English courses at DePaul: both multi-author / subgenre surveys and 10-week courses focused on individual texts. One of those narrowly-focused seminars, on Sherry Thomas’s My Beautiful Enemy, will be underway during the conference, and I will describe what we are doing in it and why. (A clue from the heroine’s quest for ancient treasure in that novel, “use heart in your search,” gives my talk its title.) Rather than ask what romance novels do or don’t teach readers in general, I want to detail about what a few individual novels invite us to go and learn, about how they extend those invitations, and about what we find when we take up their offers, whether in or out of school.