“Roma” spelled backwards: love and heterotopic space in contemporary romance novels set in Italy

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Here's the abstract:

Anglophone romance narratives set in Italy often contain a component of “time-travelling", a going back to a partially pre-modern or pre-postmodern world ruled by a distinctive cluster of values: cultural, familial, religious, anchored to traditions perceived as continuous and unbroken. The manufacturing of temporal difference has been amply investigated by anthropological and orientalist theories, but has rarely been examined in relation to fictional narratives. This is odd, considering the number of narratives that pivot on this artistic and discursive fabrication that is far from being a mere narrative device, insofar as it has become a proper technology of power. It is so embedded in, and conventional to, certain fictional forms that it becomes invisible. Anglophone romance narratives set in Italy offer a privileged standpoint from which such technology of power can be brought to the surface, structured, as they often are, around the narrative core of a rational Anglo-American (female) visitor, coming from a postmodern world characterized by contemporary concerns, alienations and estrangements, being challenged by a “second order of reality", a heterotropic space governed by sensual, magical sometimes regressive rules. This chapter proposes a close reading of several contemporary romance novels set in Italy to demonstrate the centrality and efficacy of a cultural and narrative device which by positing at the core of the romance an emancipated protagonist caught between the postmodern/rational and the premodern/magical, challenges the symbolic order of the (Anglo-American) self, producing on the one hand, endless engaging and amusing stories which feature a sequence of charming wealthy winemakers with exotic accents and large families, and reiterating on the other hand, as series of conventional tropes on Italian otherness which legitimate the normative value of the Anglo-American self.