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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 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. Continue reading