As many of you know, Andrea DaRif (aka Cara Elliott) and I are teaching a seminar together at Yale this term, on the origins and development of the Regency romance novel from its inception in Austen to the more outre offshoots of the genre today.
We are having an absolute ball.
For those who are curious about the class, I had ambitious plans about posting both the syllabus and the supplemental reading list here below. However, I am ashamed to admit that my technological cluelessness has stymied me. Fortunately, my co-teacher, Cara Elliott, is savvier than I, so you can find and download the syllabus and supplemental reading list on her webpage, via a couple of exceedingly snazzy Y-for-Yale icons.
Meanwhile, I’ve pasted in the syllabus here below the fold.
I’m happy to answer any questions about why we picked the books we did– and I’m always delighted to have more suggestions for the supplemental reading list!
Reading the Historical Romance
Instructors: Andrea DaRif (Cara Elliott) & Lauren Willig
Reading the Historical Romance
“Although our [novels] have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried. From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are as many as our readers….”
– Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (1818)
Goals: Although “romance” has played an integral role in human storytelling from ancient epics to medieval chansons de geste to the first eighteenth century novels, the popular modern genre is frequently derided as nothing more than the sound of bodices ripping across the centuries. However, despite the dismissive sniffs, “romance” is achieving not only commercial success but serious academic attention as well. The most widely read genre in the United States, romance has recently begun to receive scholarly recognition under the leadership of the International Association for Popular Romance (IASPR). Academic conferences on romance fiction have been held in venues around the globe, from a conference at Princeton in the spring of 2009 to this past summer’s conference in Brisbane, Australia. Romance novel scholarship is rapidly gaining momentum.
In that vein, this class seeks to examine one of the most popular sub-genres within the romance field: the Regency romance novel, beloved by Austen fans worldwide. We will explore the Regency romance novel in both a historical and a literary context, examining the genre’s origins, its growth, and the development of characteristic tropes and conventions.
Starting briefly with the emergence of the “modern” romance in the 18th and 19th century, we will trace the way Austen’s heirs co-opt and adapt the themes and settings introduced in her novels. Next, we’ll consider novels from her early twentieth century imitator, Georgette Heyer, through to the more recent permutations of the model, including “wallpaper” historicals, Regency vampires, and Chick Lit. Looking at the most important names and the most formative works in the field, we will discuss the changing role and nature of the hero and heroine, issues of sexuality and class, the use of structure and tone, and the craft of the romance narrative.
Within this framework, students will be expected to analyze and discuss representative romance novels (with the option of crafting their own works of romantic fiction for their final project). A Discussion Panel of authors and editors in Week 9 adds editorial and industry-based expertise to the reading material, while trips to the British Art Center provide a visual perspective on the Regency.
Instructors: Andrea DaRif (writing as Cara Elliott) and Lauren Willig are both graduates of Yale College and best selling writers of popular historical romance.
Writing: Students will be expected to complete three writing assignments: a book review (3-4 pp), a short critical essay (5 pp), and the final project (10-15 pp). For the final project, students may choose to write either (a) a critical essay or (b) a synopsis and sample chapter for a hypothetical historical romance novel, along with a short explication of their influences and choices.
Reading: Students will be expected to read a novel a week, along with selected excerpts from critical works including A Natural History of the Romance Novel, Beyond Heaving Bosoms, and Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women.
WEEK 1: Introduction
Presentation and expectations. What is a romance novel? What are common conceptions of the genre? What does it mean to be a “regency romance” in particular?
- “The Romance Novel Defined” from A Natural History of the Romance Novel, Pamela Regis
- “An Introduction to Romance” (pp 1-10) from Beyond Heaving Bosoms, Candy Tam and Sarah Wendell
- “An Introduction” by Jayne Ann Krentz from Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, Jayne Ann Krentz ed.
- Opening of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (distributed in class)
UNIT 1: Foundations of the Regency Romance
WEEK 2: Historical Background
We’ll take a look at how such “contemporary” novels shaped the genre, as well as the emergence of tropes, characterizations, and other recognizably “romance” traits. Why can we consider these both “Literature with a capital L” and romance?
- Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen:
- “Northanger Abbey”, from Jane Austen: the World of Her Novels, Deirdre Le Faye, pp. 204-221
WEEK 3: Heyer, Mother of the Regency
Brief description of Heyer as seminal and exploration of her innovations and legacies to the genre. What is the definition of “Regency Romance”? Why did Heyer choose this time period, and why does this choice matter?
- Regency Buck, Georgette Heyer
- “Georgette Heyer: Civil Contracts” from A Natural History of the Romance Novel, Pamela Regis
- “The Seventh Heaven of the Fashionable World”, from An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England, pp. 48-65.
- “An Honourable Escape: Georgette Heyer”, A.S. Byatt, from Passions of the Mind: Selected Writings, 258-265.
- “Reading Trash”, in Sex, Class, and Culture, ed. Lillian S. Robinson, pp. 200-222
- “A Story of her Weaving: the self-authoring heroines of Georgette Heyer’s Regency Romance”, Karin E. Westman, in Doubled Plots: Romance and History, Susan Strehle & Mary Carden, eds.
WEEK 4: Woodiwiss, Mother of Modern Romance
Discussion of the birth of the American-born romance novel and its ramifications. Commentary on famously “purple prose”. Why is this the springboard for the modern romance novel? How is this dated and how is it timeless?
- The Flame and the Flower, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
- “A Brief History of the Modern Romance Novel” (pp 10-25) from Beyond Heaving Bosoms
- “Desire and the Marketplace: A Reading of Kathleen Woodiwiss’ The Flame and the Flower”, Charles H. Hinnant, in Doubled Plots: Romance and History, Susan Strehle & Mary Carden, eds.
UNIT 2: Power Players
WEEK 5: McNaught: Virginity and the Heroine
Discussion of the nature and role of the heroine, particularly in relation to the role of sexuality. How do conceptions of purity, feistiness, vulnerability, and femininity relate? Are romance novels heroine-driven? What does that entail?
- Whitney, My Love, Judith McNaught
- “Rape in Romance” (pp 139-144) from Beyond Heaving Bosoms
- “An In-Depth Investigation of the Romance Heroine” (pp. 30-39, 54-57) from Beyond Heaving Bosoms
- “By Honor Bound: the Heroine as Hero” from Dangerous Men, Adventurous Women.
WEEK 6: Lindsey: Adventure and Plot
Discussion of the role of the plot, in both adventure-centric novels and otherwise. What is the importance of plot in relation to character? How does adventure mold to the Regency Romance paradigm? Also, where do these novels fit on the spectrum of Purple to Sophisticated prose?:
- Gentle Rogue, Johanna Lindsey
- “Cringe-Worthy Plot Devices We Know and Love” (pp. 100-110) from Beyond Heaving Bosoms
- “The Modern Venus—Or, Improper Ladies and Others” (p. 57-89) from Before Victoria: Extraordinary Women of the British Romantic Era, Elizabeth Campbell Denlinger
WEEK 7: Kleypas and Chase: Heroes from Alpha to Beta
Discussion of the role of the hero. What are the ramifications of the alpha versus beta hero? Are beta heroes less of “heroes”? How does the concept of the hard-hitting hero relate to the role of sensuality in the novel? The role of class and social status?
- Dreaming of You, Lisa Kleypas
- Mr. Impossible, Loretta Chase
- “The Romance Hero” (pp. 72-74, 76-82, 93-98) from Beyond Heaving Bosoms
- “Masculine Occupations” from Jane Austen: the World of Her Novels, pp. 73-86
- “Bucks, Beaux and Pinks of the Ton” from An Elegant Madness, pp. 24-47.
WEEK 8: Quinn: The Wallpaper Historical
Analysis of Quinn’s unique writing style and re-emphasis on the Austenian world of the drawing room. What makes Quinn of the most popular modern romance novelists? What is the role of London society in a Regency Romance? How does she compare with the previous “Power Players”?
This session will include a class field trip to the BAC to look at period prints of Regency life. How do these contemporary pictures both overlap and diverge from the world created by Quinn? The world of Heyer?
- The Viscount Who Loved Me, Julia Quinn
- Jane Austen: the World of Her Novels, Deirdre Le Faye, pp. 87-125
- “An Impolite Society” from An Elegant Madness, pp. 1-23
- “Charades and Epigrams: the Country House”, from An Elegant Madness, pp. 225-244.
- Romancing History, Historicizing Romance: The Practice of History Through Romance Fiction, Lauren Willig, paper given at Popular Culture Association Conference, 2009.
- Selected excerpts from Romantics and Revolutionaries: Regency Portraits from the national Portrait Galley London, David Crane, Stephen Hebron, Robert Woof
WEEK 9: Panel Discussion
A panel composed of professional authors, editors, and reviewers will discuss the origins, trajectory, and changing nature of the Regency romance. Please come prepared with questions and good cheer!
- A Duke of her Own, Eloisa James
- “Shakespeare prof savors bodice-busting romances”, Jane Ammeson, New York Times 6/28/09 (article on Eloisa James)
- “Love’s Labors: A Shakespeare Professor Confesses”, New York Magazine 1/24/05 (interview with Eloisa James)
- “Scholarly Writers Empower the Romance Genre”, USA Today, 7/7/09
- “Rewriting the Romance”, Time Magazine, 2/3/03
- “A Sultry Dose of Romance—from Harvard”, New York Times, 3/16/05
UNIT 3: Stylistic Swerving
WEEK 10: Playing with Narrative: Viewpoint and Tone
Discussion of the effects of 1st person viewpoint and choice of tone. How do point-of-view shifts affect our understanding of the novel and the characters? What is the impact on “show, don’t tell” theory? When is the author present in the text? :
- The Accidental Duchess, Jessica Benson
- “The Androgynous Reader: Point of View in the Romance” by Laura Kinsale from Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, Jayne Ann Krentz ed.
WEEK 11: Regency Suspense
The integration of suspense into a new sub-genre of romance. Where is the line between Romantic Suspense and Suspense with romance? What is the relation between horror and suspense? How does suspense impact the nature of hero and/or heroine? How much relation do modern Regency suspense novels bear to the eighteenth century “horrid” novel that served as the progenitor of the Gothic?
- With This Ring, Amanda Quick
- The Castle of Otranto, Horace Walpole
- “The Gothic Phenomenon In The Castle Of Otranto: A Critical Essay,” Clifford J. Kurkowski
- Excerpt from The Tale of Terror: A Study in the Gothic Romance, Edith Birkhead
WEEK 12: Paranormal, the Road from Gothic
As perhaps the most important sub-genre of modern romance, what is the draw to paranormal? How does one craft a believable, humanized romance within the parameters of the paranormal? Does this have ramifications on the nature of the hero and heroine within (ie, can one have a beta vampire hero? A vampire-slayer Catherine Morland?)
- After Midnight, Teresa Medeiros
- The Giaour, Lord Byron
- Advance excerpt from Immortal Jane (featuring Jane Austen as vampire), a work in progress by Janet Mullany.
- Excerpt from Our Vampires, Ourselves, Nina Auerbach
WEEK 13: Spin-offs and Wrap-up
Chick-Lit as the inheritor of regency romance legacy. How do themes from the Regency romance resonate in contemporary life? How do they differ?
- Pride, Prejudice, and Jasmin Field, Melissa Nathan
- “Write Your Own Romance” and romance mad-libs from Beyond Heaving Bosoms, Candy Tam and Sarah Wendell
Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen
Regency Buck, Georgette Heyer
The Flame and the Flower, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught
Gentle Rogue, Johanna Lindsey
Dreaming of You, Lisa Kleypas
Mr. Impossible, Loretta Chase
The Viscount Who Loved Me, Julia Quinn
The Accidental Duchess, Jessica Benson
A Duke of her Own, Eloisa James
With This Ring, Amanda Quick
The Castle of Otranto, Horace Walpole
After Midnight, Teresa Medeiros
Pride, Prejudice, and Jasmin Field, Melissa Nathan
Beyond Heaving Bosoms, Candy Tan and Sarah Wendell
An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England, Venetia Murray
Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels, Deirdre Le Faye