ClitLit – Women, Romance Fiction and Patriarchal Discourse

December 21, 2009

Identity and Models of Gender – Quick Shots

Filed under: quick shots — Jodi @ 10:36 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Brief addendum to what I was talking about yesterday re romance and the gendered construction of selfhood. Here’s another quote from Crusie’s essay:

“Certainly the heroine in the romances I enjoy comes to a greater sense of self through the arc of the story, but she does so through both actions and relationships, while the hero follows his own character arc at the same time, maturing in the same way.”

– Crusie, J., 1997, ‘Romancing Reality: The power of romance fiction to reinforce and re-envision the real’ [originally published in Paradoxa: Studies in World Literary Genres. Number 1-2, 1997: 81-93, accessed via, 21/12/2009]

This seems to bear out exactly what I was saying yesterday – the heroine attains selfhood through sexual union with the hero, while the hero, already a complete person, attains a better kind of complete selfhood. Essentially, the heroine needs the hero, but if the hero had never met the heroine, he probably would have continued just fine.

‘Old skool’ romance fiction was very much the heroine’s story, whereas ‘new skool’ romance is moving towards a journey for both leads. It is still, however, primarily the woman’s journey – and in a female-dominated industry I guess that’s understandable. However, even though the heroine makes the hero’s life better and he adjusts to her worldview (codependence) rather than her adjusting to his, I don’t know if this is an adequate model of femininity. It is still hierarchical, the male able to function as bachelor and husband, with the woman only able to function as wife. (This is borne out linguistically as well – who wants to be termed a ‘spinster’?)

But as we can see in the progression from old skool to new skool, romance is changing. Partnerships, while still hierarchical, are becoming more equal. Are we going to see a shift – maybe not necessarily in this model of femininity, but in the model of masculinity?


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