Feminist Fiction: Feminist Uses of Generic Fiction

Publisher
Polity
Location
Cambridge
Publication year
1990
Comment

The chapter on "Feminist Romance" covers pages 177-192. There is broad discussion of romance novels but the only romance discussed in any detail is Sarah James's Harlequin romance Public Affair (1984) because the characters discuss feminism (albeit according to Cranny-Francis it is a male villain who makes the main arguments in favour of feminism, thus undermining it). Precursors to the modern romance, particularly Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre are discussed. There is analysis of two modern novels which are not romances: Margaret Atwood's Lady Oracle and Fay Weldon's The Life and Loves of a She-Devil.

Modern romances [...] do not deconstruct the patriarchal marriage or the erotic relationship which is its initial phase. Instead they fetishise it; the relationship itself is the focus of the narrative, displacing from reader attention its economic determinants. The erotic desire which motivates the narrative enacts, in displaced form, not only the erotic desires of the reader, but her or his economic desires - for wealth, security, status - from which the erotic is inseparable. [...] Romantic novels operate [...] as patriarchal fairy-tales for grown-ups [...]. Since [...] the resolution of the love story is predicated not on the physical, emotional and spiritual compatibility of the lovers, but on their economic circumstances, it must be suggested that these romances construct a representation not of patriarchal gender ideology, but of burgeois, patriarchal ideology; that these are not love stories so much as economic stories displaced into love story terms. (183)