Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Academia == Kerfuffles

The conference on romance scholarship Love as the Practice of Freedom? at Princeton University had barely ended when Romancelandia was rocked by a war between factions on what behaviors and opinions are appropriate for academics as opposed to the producers and consumers of romance fiction.

Here's the background... The closing panel of the conference Romance Reads the Academy featured the RWA president, an editor, and two bloggers. The idea behind the panel was for these folks, who've been identified as knowledgeable in guaging the pulse of the romance fiction soceity, to comment on the work done so far by the researchers and to identify some of the paths scholarly exploration should take next. As such, it was for the natives to inform the social scientists about their society, not the individual spokespeople, but the society as a whole.

The publication of the panel speech by Michelle Buonfiglio of Romance B(u)y the Book set the fur flying. Here's the rebuttal by Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches Trashy Books. Also read an account of the conference by reader Karen W on Dear Author, an essay by Janet/Robin of Dear Author, and comments by author Barb Ferrer and by Sandy of All About Romance.

The blog reader commentary follows along drawn party-lines with each group supporting their candidate, but in fact, it illustrates my thoughts precisely...

1. The romance reading public is a supportive community of courteous, intelligent people who enjoy voicing their opinions with confidence and respectfully analyzing dissenting hypotheses. (Erudite-sounding, much? Ahem.)

2. The freedom to say what we think is every person's fundamental right, as is the right to freely exercise that right.

3. Academic investigation has to be unfettered for it to have any value.

4. The Internet is an even playing field, not a zero-sum game. Every viewpoint only generates more weight to the topic/field at hand.

5. Ethics and morality issues of conscience handled in a top-down approach rarely succeed in a society of infinitely varying notions of right and wrong.