Kay Mussell Replies to Tania Modleski

Publication year
Para.doxa: Studies in World Literary Genres

Here's a quote from the beginning of this short piece:

I read Tania Modleski's response to the romance issue (see "My Life as a Romance Writer" in this issue), with great interest and considerable appreciation of her vigorous defense of her position as well as her nimble way with a phrase. In the end, however, my response to her response was a sense of disappointment. Let me explain.

Modleski's original article, "My Life as a Romance Reader," was a lucid, witty, and penetrating look at the contradictions many women feel about their own enjoyment of the often maligned romance genre. It offered precisely the perspective I had hoped for and expected when I asked her to contribute to the special section. Modleski's 1982 book on the romance was the first major study from a feminist perspective to be published and, in its balanced and sensitive analysis of what was really going on in these narratives, it influenced the work of many scholars who came after her, including my own. In both book and article, while making her own stance absolutely clear, Modleski offered an intelligent and sometimes self reflexive critique of the romance genre - but without attacking either its readers or its writers. That balance is, unfortunately, missing in her reply. [...] For the record, I don't agree with everything published in the special issue, either. But that's the nature of listening to many points of view. My disappointment in Modleski's response has to do with her apparent unease in participating in a dialogue that includes romance writers and critics she perceives as "post feminist." (145)

I'm not sure how much interest there is in this old disagreement but if anyone does want to read all the works involved, they can decide for themselves who's "attacking" who and whether the writers in the volume "attacked" Modleski or just her views. It may be a side-effect of writing based in personal experience (as Modleski's is) that the lines are blurred between responding to the argument and responding to the writer and/or the writer may perceive responses to the writing as a response to them personally.