Romance and the Work of Fantasy: Struggles over Feminine Sexuality and Subjectivity at Century's End

Publication year

romance is now, and has been at least for the last fifteen years, a principal site for the struggle over feminine subjectivity and sexuality and, I would argue, over feminism as well.
What I intend in this chapter, therefore, is to review the nature of the struggles that have been conducted at this site and to show that just as feminist discourse about the romance has changed dramatically in a short time, so too has the romance changed as writers have resisted the efforts of the publishing industry to fix the form in the hope of generating predictable profits. Writers have responded instead both to their culture's habitual tendency to dismiss their efforts and to changing attitudes about women and their roles by playing significantly with the fantasy at the heart of their genre. (213-214)


My own book, Reading the Romance [...] unwittingly repeated the sexist assumption that has warranted a large portion of the commentary on the romance. It was still motivated, that is, by the assumption that someone ought to worry responsibly about the effect of fantasy on women readers. (214)

The article was reprinted in Feminism and Cultural Studies, ed. Morag Shiach (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 395-416.