Stories of Love and Death: Reading and Writing the Fairy Tale Romance

Publication year

Benson argues that "The formulaic nature of the popular romance - the generic stamp of Mills and Boon or Harlequin - could be said to have grown out of the structured, repetitive form of the folk tale" (105) and that

in genre fiction, at least in its popular manifestations, [...] plot is drained of excess to the point where it pivots and draws upon the motor of narrative itself: the desire to know, to uncover, to understand. The curiosity of the reader is analogous with the curiosity of the detective or the curiosity of the folkloric heroine, both of whom follow a path from confusion to enlightenment. Because of this priority, genre fiction draws on a store of relatively easily identifiable representations which can be slotted into a preordained story structure without the need to halt its inexorable flow. Generic characterisation is thus undertaken with broad strokes, producing characters which can be read speedily, and it is for this reason that genre fiction gives a revealing insight into the cultural context. (103)

The chapter focuses on the following tales: Cupid and Psyche; Beauty and the Beast; Bluebeard, and reworkings/reinterpretations of them by Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood (i.e. not popular romance fiction!).