Literary approaches

Publication year

From the introduction to the volume:

Selinger’s chapter (Chapter 13) reviews critiques of romance fiction that find it lacking in artistry and identifies the instances within the field that do the opposite, often by challenging the notion that working within genre conventions necessarily limits (or dumbs-down) a novel. He includes cases of the application of techniques from the literature classroom that identify and critique formal elements of a romance novel or an individual romance author’s corpus. The chapter thus models how romance novels may be analyzed using the same tools as used in the analysis of canonical works, and it highlights scholarship on the playful, critically self-aware metafictional gestures often found in the novels themselves. (16)


By “literary approaches” I do not mean simply “the way that literature is treated.” Literature is treated in many ways, and post-New Critical versions of “close reading” share a departmental hallway with sharply contrasting modes of inquiry, including ideological and philosophical investigations, material histories of the book, and computer-assisted analyses of vast digitized corpora. Rather, this chapter will focus on approaches to popular romance that are “literary” in the sense that they emphasize what are still generally thought of as literary qualities or attributes of texts, no matter their genre or medium: telling details; compositional patterns and choices; references to and engagements with the history of the genre; formal decisions that can be said to act out or comment on content; adept variations on established conventions; metafictional winks and intertextual nods; in sum, all of the ironies, insights, and complexities, global and local, that make up a romance novel’s “unlikeness” from others in its genre or subgenre. (295)