Doubled Plots

Doubled Plots: Romance and History

Susan Strehle
Mary Paniccia Carden
Susan L. Blake
Stephanie Burley
Mary Paniccia Carden
Rita B. Dandridge
Janet Dean
Charles H. Hinnant
Rita Keresztesi
Huining Ouyang
Susan Strehle
Karin E. Westman
Copyright Date: 2003
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tvkkw
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Doubled Plots
    Book Description:

    In art, myth, and popular culture, romance is connected with the realm of emotions, private thought, and sentimentality. History, its counterpart, is the seemingly objective compendium of public fact. In theory, the two genres are diametrically opposed, offering widely divergent views of human experience.

    In this collection of essays, however, the writers challenge these basic assumptions and consider the two as parallel and as reflections of each other. Looking closely at specific narratives, they argue that romance and history share expectations and purposes and create the metaphors that can either hold cultures and institutions together or drive them apart. The writers explore the internal contradictions of both genres, as seen in works in which the elements of both romance and history are present. The theme that flows throughout this collection is that romance literature and art frequently engage with or comment on actual historical events or histories.

    Included among the contributions are discussions of romance and race in James Fenimore Cooper'sThe Last of the Mohicans, the Rudolph Valentino film classicThe Sheik, the series of English "Regency Romance" novels, the constructs of love and history in two of Alice McDermott's novels, and a feminist reading of African American women's historical romances.

    Moreover, the essays approach romance and history from a variety of critical and political perspectives and examine a wide selection of romances from the 1800s to contemporary times. They look at bestsellers and literary classics, at texts by and for white audiences, and at works created by writers on the margins of Western culture.

    The anthology is a radical approach to romance, a genre often dismissed as diversionary and reactionary. It explores how well this genre serves for critical examinations of history.

    Susan Strehle, a professor of English at Binghamton University, is the author ofFiction in the Quantum Universe. Her work has been published inCritique,Review of Contemporary Fiction,Contemporary Literature, andModern Fiction Studies.

    Mary Paniccia Carden, an assistant professor of English at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, has been published inTwentieth-Century Literature,Modern Fiction Studies,Prose Studies, and theJournal of Contemporary Thought.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-273-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction READING ROMANCE, READING HISTORY
    (pp. xi-2)
    Susan Strehle and Mary Paniccia Carden

    Signifying economies revolve around desire, and love, widely assumed to be a universal human experience, is both a language we all understand and a currency of indeterminate value. As the norm that directs communal comprehension, circumscription, and evaluation of human possibilities, the heterosexual romance plot frames a multitude of cultural, political, economic, and historical discourses. Few people’s experience exactly fits the normative model of romance. But in the register of ideology, commonly held notions of civilization, humanity, and identity remain grounded in the structures of heterosexual union. InWriting beyond the Ending,Rachel Blau DuPlessis observes that “romance plots of...

  5. Making Love, Making History (ANTI) ROMANCE IN ALICE MCDERMOTT’S AT WEDDINGS AND WAKES AND CHARMING BILLY
    (pp. 3-23)
    Mary Paniccia Carden

    “Romance plots of various kinds, the iconography of love, the postures of yearning, pleasing, choosing, slipping, falling, and failing,” Rachel Blau DuPlessis has observed, comprise “some of the deep, shared structures of our culture” (2). For better or for worse, the happily-ever-after expectations of the traditional heterosexual romance plot have done more than any other cultural ritual to solidify models for intelligible identities, construct interpersonal relations as signifiers of public priorities, and channel multiple and discontinuous currents of desire into predictable expressions, outcomes, and narrative frames.¹ From virtually all cultural directions—from music, movies, and fiction to the more personal...

  6. History and the End of Romance DANTICAT’S THE FARMING OF BONES
    (pp. 24-44)
    Susan Strehle

    Edwidge Danticat describes her latest novel,The Farming of Bones(1998), as “a work of fiction based on historical events” (311). The novel appears at points tobea history, designed to engage the events of 1937 and to recall them forever from obscurity. In her acknowledgments, the Haitian American writer lists several sources she researched for the historical background on the massacre of some 35,000 Haitians by Dominicans in 1937. The endpapers of the hardback version of the novel reproduce a letter from Haitian President Sténio Vincent to U.S. Secretary of State George Leger describing the massacre: “Evidemment on...

  7. Stopping Traffic SPECTACLES OF ROMANCE AND RACE IN THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
    (pp. 45-66)
    Janet Dean

    In the final chapter of Cooper’s best-known novel, the body of Cora Munro is laid to rest in a bicultural ceremony that is at once funeral and wedding. Six Delaware women sing a burial song celebrating the posthumous romantic union of the English woman and Uncas, “the last of the Mohicans” (870). Having reassured Cora she will be safe in the afterworld with her Indian mate, the women step aside as psalmodist David Gamut sings a Christian hymn. Like the imagined marriage of Cora and Uncas, the two songs seem to transcend the racial and cultural impediments that would normally...

  8. What “Race” Is the Sheik? REREADING A DESERT ROMANCE
    (pp. 67-85)
    Susan L. Blake

    A willful young Englishwoman, rich, titled, and twenty-one, pooh-poohs the advice of her brother and other guardians of her virtue and undertakes an unchaperoned Algerian desert tour. On day one, she rides into exactly the fate her advisers have implied but been too discreet to spell out: capture and rape by an Arab sheik. She comes to love the sheik and makes him realize he loves her. He is revealed in the end to be no Arab at all, but an Englishman in disguise, and all signs indicate that the lovers will live happily ever after in the desert.

    This...

  9. Behind the Mask of Coquetry THE TRICKSTER NARRATIVE IN MISS NUMÈ OF JAPAN: A JAPANESE-AMERICAN ROMANCE
    (pp. 86-106)
    Huining Ouyang

    InWriting beyond the Ending(1985), Rachel Blau DuPlessis identifies “a poetics of rupture and critique” central to the project of twentieth-century women writers (32). Calling this poetics “writing beyond the ending,” she defines it as the “transgressive invention of narrative strategies . . . that express critical dissent from dominant narrative,” interrupting both the ideology and the structure of the romance plot and “[making] alternative statements about gender and its institutions” (5, x). I would like to extend DuPlessis’ concept by examining challenging interventions in orientalist constructions of race, gender, and sex in the novel of exotic romance. Reading...

  10. Romancing the Borderlands JOSEPHINA NIGGLI’S MEXICAN VILLAGE
    (pp. 107-126)
    Rita Keresztesi

    Josephina Niggli (1910–1983) was born in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, to immigrant American parents. Her father, Frederick Ferdinand Niggli, whose Swiss and Alsatian forebears immigrated to Texas in 1836, moved to Mexico in 1893 and worked as the manager of a cement plant in the village of Hidalgo, not far from the industrial city of Monterrey; her mother, Goldie (Morgan) Niggli, was of Irish, French, and German descent. Josephina Niggli grew up in Mexico and her childhood was indelibly influenced by Mexican culture and the Mexican Revolution of 1910: she grew up bilingual and bicultural, identifying as both Mexican...

  11. What’s a Nice Girl like You Doing in a Book like This? HOMOEROTIC READING AND POPULAR ROMANCE
    (pp. 127-146)
    Stephanie Burley

    What could be more conventionally heterosexual (and less homoerotic for women) than the discourse of popular romance, a representational schema that takes as its first premise the erotic attractions of phallocentric heroes named Ben Penrod and Evan Mountjoy? The short answer: not much. But a more complicated approach to this question highlights the subterranean homoeroticism in the romance industry that has gone unnoticed in recent scholarship. Tania Modleski’s groundbreaking study of popular romance,Loving with a Vengeance: Mass-Produced Fantasies for Women(1982), was one of the first academic texts to take seriously the cultural work done by this powerful genre...

  12. Desire and the Marketplace A READING OF KATHLEEN WOODIWISS’S THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER
    (pp. 147-164)
    Charles H. Hinnant

    Fredric Jameson’s influential definition of genre as a social contract between “any writer and a specific reading public” has given rise to numerous studies of the ways literary production has been shaped by social, economic, and technological factors such as the histories of printing, publishing, and the reading public (160; see also Barthes 89–90). As a part of this enterprise, Janice Radway (1991) has shown how an audience for romance began to redefine itself in the early 1970s and to be redefined by the marketing strategies of American publishers who introduced a whole host of new authors and subgenres...

  13. A Story of Her Weaving THE SELF-AUTHORING HEROINES OF GEORGETTE HEYER’S REGENCY ROMANCE
    (pp. 165-184)
    Karin E. Westman

    An institution for several generations of readers in America, Australia, New Zealand, and particularly the U.K., popular romance novelist Georgette Heyer (1902–1974) is a British cultural icon few will admit to having read in their teens, let alone in the decades that follow. Though “despatched,” as Goring notes, to “the bottom of the literary pit” for the genre she chose, Georgette Heyer deserves to be resurrected. Of her many contributions to twentieth-century British literary culture, one stands out: Heyer offers a fascinating perspective on the relationship between history and romance, choosing to invest the women of her Regency romances...

  14. The Race, Gender, Romance Connection A BLACK FEMINIST READING OF AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN’S HISTORICAL ROMANCES
    (pp. 185-202)
    Rita B. Dandridge

    In contemporary literary studies, black women’s historical romances have been grossly ignored. Whether the romance element in these novels discourages critics’ interest or whether the historical romance is, as George Dekker would have us believe, swollen with “specimens deformed by ... racism [and] sexism,” the fact remains that African American women’s historical romances have an unexamined relevance to African American women’s literature and the historical romance genre (4). These romances often portray black women’s activism against a racist and sexist national environment and opposition to patriarchal structures embedded in traditional black male-female relationships. I argue that three African American romance...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 203-212)
  16. Works Cited
    (pp. 213-223)
  17. About the Contributors
    (pp. 224-226)
  18. Index
    (pp. 227-232)