Such a pan-disciplinary study was on full display at the recent “What is Love?

Such a pan-disciplinary study was on full display at the recent “What is Love?

Romance is one of the last fiction genres to find a place on college syllabi at a time when the academy seems to be welcoming serious scrutiny of everything from The Wizard of Oz to Beyonce and Miley Cyrus. And while there’s all the fervent intellectual wrestling of any academic discipline, these romance scholars are writing a post-feminist narrative in which the anti-romance second-wave feminism of the ’70s and ’80s is over, along with all the dissing and belittling that came with it.

“Greer was one of the first early influential naysayers,” says Pamela Regis, a professor of English at McDaniel College, with a tone of delight in her voice. Regis’s book, “A Natural History of the Romance Novel” is seminal for contextualizing this new wave of scholarship. “Germaine Greer… inaugurated the modern criticism of the romance novel in 1970, striking a theme that becomes a commonplace in subsequent criticism-that of the romance novel as an enslaver of women.,” Regis writes.

“We’re going to look at these [romance] books like any other literary text, as a asiame mail login product of the creative imagination,” says Franz Lyons.

In many of these scholars’ happily ever afters, romance fiction would be the object of scrutiny across the academic spectrum. “Be still my heart,” says Selinger at the idea of a degree program in romance studies. In their ideal world, romance fiction’s illustrated book covers and archetypal characters would glow provocatively from the desks of social scientists, theologists, feminists, historians, anthropologists, philosophers and the wonkiest of literary scholars.

It was when you needed to leave the person you loved,” said Stephanie Coontz, a professor of history and family studies

In recent issues, scholars have meditated on the work of Nora Roberts for sure, as well as “Sapphic Romance in Mexican Golden Age Filmmaking” and “disability and romance” in vampire fiction.

The genre is slowly infiltrating other disciplines: there are medical professors looking at the ways that doctors and nurses are portrayed in romance fiction and professors of Middle Eastern studies flipping the pages of the sheik-hero romance subgenre.

” conference at the Library of Congress where John Cole, the director for the Center for the Book announced, “Romance fiction arrives center stage.”

The Journal of Popular Romance is the breeding ground for this future: “a peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal of scholarship on romantic love and its representations in global popular culture,” explains Selinger

It was standing room only in a mahogany auditorium filled with romance enthusiasts across the spectrum. Several silver-haired men in blue suit jackets and bearded 30-somethings sat amid young women in cat-eye glasses, older women in gold accessories (and just a few pairs of Mom jeans.)

On a panel featuring social scientists, historians, psychologists and anthropologists, the discussion centered on the lack of happy endings in the real world. “Throughout history, marriage was not the happy ending but the unhappy ending.

“I have to say, the science is dreary,” said Eli Finkel, a professor of social psychology at Northwestern University, citing studies that show romance inevitably dropping in marriages. “But, then again, the science says that the alpha male is, well, kinda hot. It turns out that everyone likes someone who is hot and ambitious.”

But before the larger world of academia can dissect romance novels for their larger themes, the more niche group of literature scholars must also come to terms with the genre’s broad reach and popularity-as well as the disdain that endures.

“The stereotype has been overweight women eating bonbons in bed, reading alone,” says filmmaker Laurie Kahn whose forthcoming documentary Love Between the Covers follows romance authors, fans and scholars as a booming subculture of women that is either disrespected or ignored. “The truth is that people from every conceivable socioeconomic background are reading this fiction. And the authors are surgeons, lawyers, professors.”