Monday, April 11, 2016

Popular Culture Association: National Conference: Romance Area #pcarom @pcaromance -- Part One

The Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association's national conference was on Tuesday, March 22 in Seattle. I attended five of the seven sessions in the Romance Area, which was chaired by Eric Selinger of DePaul University.

(Next year, the Romance area will be chaired by Heather Schell of George Washington University and Jodi McAlister of University of Tasmania.)

Here are my notes from the first session. Notes from the next four sessions will be in successive blog posts.

Please note that I'm a romance reader, not an academic. So these notes will be a lay analysis at best.

Readers, Authors, and Real-Life Lovers

"Novel" Representations of Female Sexuality in Popular Fiction Across Cultures by Claire Watson

Comparing Jane Austen's work to Zane's, Watson says how Austen promoted female empowerment and sexual agency and could be considered an intellectual ancestor of Zane. (FYI...Zane's sexually explicit, female-oriented plots empower black women to take agency in their sexual lives.)

Austen subverted the dominant culture—heroines created agency under patriarchal repression. One way they did this is by engaging in adventurous sexual relations with husband within the confines of respectable marriages. Thus sexuality was explored in Austen in a coded fashion, under love and marriage. However, even though the heroines appeared liberated on the surface, but in reality they were dominated by the sexual attitudes of society.

Lizzy and Jane from Pride & Prejudice experienced more freedom and respect because they operated within the confines of decorum, unlike, say, Lydia. Similarly, decorum allowed Lizzy and Jane to experience agency in their courtships, a revolutionary idea by Austen.

Aspirational Labor in the Creative Industries: Becoming a “Real” Romance Writer by Jen Lois

This paper by sociologist Lois was the most fascinating paper of the five sessions I attended. She and Joanna Gregson conducted 400 hours of fieldwork researching how to become a real romance writer. They also conducted 55 in-depth interviews. Overall, they covered 43 writers of which three were men, 11 POC, and 3 LBGTQ. (Hmmm...rather low on diversity.)

In the creative industries, self-actualization is a cross between artistic talent and business acumen.

For a romance writer (or any writer), the prolonged state of aspiration is a challenge for job satisfaction. Aspiring writers experience a calling, an epiphany ("what I was meant to do"), followed by discovery narratives, emotional connections (to the work and to the people in the industry), and emotional confirmations (via contest wins, acceptance from agents, fellow writers, etc.) These convince them that they're pursuing their dream career, which is the intersection of a calling and getting paid work.

However, despite the early optimism, it is hard to sustain morale over the long tail of aspiration. Reality checks in the form of rejections, constant need for outside validation, having to manage doubt and demoralization is difficult. Writers sometimes counter these negative messages via emotional labor, i.e., inspirational quotations and accolades from friends and fellow authors. Self-publishing is another form of emotional labor and it has helped ameliorate some of the dejection. It has been transformational.

Thus, the intersection of calling and getting paid work is also emotional labor AKA aspirational labor. This is defined as the emotional process of validating one's authentic identity through paid work.

Analyzing Dan Savage's "Monogamish" Claim by Shaun Miller

Is monogamy the preferred choice or by default?

According to Dan Savage, we are bad at monogamy. We should embrace polygamy.

What is important in a good sexual relationship? G G G. Good (skilled, being good); Giving (generous, enthused, enjoying); Game (up for anything, exploring within reason).

For flourishing in the sexual sphere, it matters in its own right but mainly without it families break apart. Sexual fulfillment is a basic need in order to flourish in a relationship. Partners have a moral obligation to help each other to find sexual fulfillment. Therefore if one is not G.G.G., one must be sexually flexible in one's relationship and partners should seek fulfillment outside the relationship.

Monogamy vs. Sexual Fulfillment
Monogamy is sexual fidelity, honest relationship, so be G.G.G. without judgment.
Sexual Fulfillment is more important so don't be sexually exclusive.

Lack of sexual fulfillment dooms a relationship because the people wouldn't flourish, i.e., lead a good life.

Audience Comments

McAllister quoted by Schell: Popular romance is characterized by compulsory demi-sexuality i.e., monogamy is the end all and be all of real love. Fidelity, i.e., not attracted to anyone else.

[I also think that the hero and heroine experiencing mind-blowing sex with The One for the first time in their lives adds to the compulsion towards fidelity.]

Pamela Regis: Is sexual desire a sexual need? Flourishing can happen within a relationship and within the confines of a relationship even if sexual fulfillment is not possible.


Victoria Janssen said...

Thanks so much for posting these! Sounds like the sessions were interesting.

Keira Soleore said...

Thank you for reading. I have four more posts the rest of the week, a session a day. I really enjoyed my time at the conference. I won't be able to attend the PCA again unless it returns to Seattle. But if you get a chance a attend, do go.