Translating True Love: Japanese Romance Fiction, Harlequin-Style

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Here's the abstract:

Japanese preferences for fictionalized love affairs depicted in category romance fiction have been significantly affected by translated Harlequin-style western romance novels. Harlequins have been immensely popular since their introduction in the early 1980s, even to the point of triggering a 'Harlequinization' of Japanese romance novels. Harlequin translations are thus one important site for displaying the qualities and behaviours associated with portraits of desirable femininity and masculinity. This paper presents an analysis of three aspects of interactional style between the Harlequin hero and heroine that differ substantially from the typical styles of Japanese category romance novels. Dialogue drawn from the Harlequin lovers' interactions is analyzed and interpreted against native Japanese norms for the appropriate expression of emotion and against the speech and actions of counterpart lovers drawn from a sample of contemporary native Japanese category romances. Of the differences found, two serve primarily to construct a different kind of heroine, the third, a different hero. Together, they provide new spaces for imagined female equality and emotional helplessness, on the one hand, and for male verbal expressivity, on the other. Japanese-language Harlequins offer linguistic portraits of 'true' lovers inhabiting very different worlds of heterosexual desirability from their domestic Japanese fictional lover counterparts. The imported 'messages' about ideal heroines and heroes may not always flatter Western-style lovers, but they provide alternative ways of imagining loverly behaviour for the Japanese reader.