Romance Novels as Women's Myths

Publication year
Para.doxa: Studies in World Literary Genres

Here's the conclusion:

We have argued that romance novels, as myths, are powerful cultural objects for a group of women readers. As formulaic fiction, these novels have the literary requirements of the traditional myth - that is, they highlight a moral battle against a "dark force" which has importance not only for the characters involved, but also for society. More importantly, they connect central issues of the individual and the culture, namely the battle between the instrumental/rational and the affective/emotional. We have suggested that, as our society moves from a modern to a postmodern society, this battle has been increasingly highlighted. This centrally important element of the romance has been missed by its critics, particularly by those structural feminists who have continued to use a rational model as a basis for evaluation. However, despite the fact that the romance leaves untouched the issue of women's ability to get along without men, we believe that these novels are quite revolutionary. Women have appropriated an apparently normative story line to create a vision which is not normative at all - that men should become responsive to and responsible for their emotions. Thus, romance novels do not reflect, as some authors would suggest, that women are content with or blinded by the patriarchy. They simply take on an issue which has received relatively little attention in the women's movement - the place of emotion in a rational society. (229-230)