Passionnément, à la folie...: Lecteurs et modes de lecture du roman d'amour contemporain

Publication year

The article is in French, but here's an English version of the abstract:

Underestimated even among paraliterary genres, the love novel is often met with rejection and scorn The criticism it attracts can certainly be explained in part by the unscrupulous methods used by specialized publishing houses. Editors reformat the stories, translators render them without any respect for the author's intentions and with precious little care. The covers are gaudy and the titles saccharine. All in all, love novels seem destined for a public incapable of differentiating between what is a quality product and what is not. However, as an Internet poll has allowed us to determine, readers of love novels are much less socially predetermined and psychologically or intellectually oppressed than one would have presumed. This is shown by the specific abilities they develop by reading their favourite genre : use of an appropriate meta-language, choice of the novels to be read based on the basis of who the author is, reading in the original language, and so forth. The usual, fairly stereotyped image of the reader of love stories does not stand up to examination. In quite the same way, the criticism leveled towards love novels themselves is sometimes baseless. Although they may be easily readable and quite predictable, they also know how to hold the reader's interest through an appropriate use of suspense. Their narrative scheme may be repetitious, but paradoxically it is also quite varied, as it can rely on a wide variety of different plots. They are more often sensual and audacious than sugary and sentimental, and manage to serve up to the reader the sweet feelings he/she seeks. This complex genre should certainly not be automatically associated with ideas of addiction or alienation. It is not simply a palliative remedy to the reader's frustrations. Quite like television, love novels respond the needs of their readers by taking on a role of providers of relaxation, fun or escapism. Rejecting them without analysis and spurning them without first examining how they are being read only exacerbates feelings of shame and marginalization amongst the readers. Other ways of reading exist beside those accepted by the cultural institutions, and the time has come to examine them in their own right.