The Fourth Annual International Conference on Popular Romance Studies:
The Pleasures of Romance

York, United Kingdom
27-29 September, 2012

Pleasure is continually disappointed, reduced, deflated, in favor of strong, noble values: Truth, Death, Progress, Struggle, Joy, etc. Its victorious rival is Desire: we are always being told about Desire, never about Pleasure.
Roland Barthes

I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.
Oscar Wilde

Keynote Speaker: Professor John Storey, University of Sunderland, Director of Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies.

Full schedule

This conference asks one large question: What is the place of pleasure in popular romance? Popular romance—whether romance novels, romantic films, soap operas, fan fiction, advertisements, etc.—has long been both consumed and derided because of the pleasures they impart: pleasures of sentiment, pathos, comfort, arousal, satisfaction, identification. This conference will consider “pleasure” in popular romance texts and popular romance studies and asks the following questions:

  1. What is pleasure? To speak about pleasure is to work with a large concept and thus we must work toward defining pleasure and also how it relates specifically to popular romance. What theoretical avenues can we use to understand pleasure?
  2. How is pleasure represented in popular romance? How and why do characters experience pleasure? How is the characters’ pleasure connected with romantic love? How is the experience of pleasure in the text connected with the pleasure of consuming and/or viewing the text?
  3. What are the pleasures of the “text,” whether visual, cinematic, literary? If romance novels, romantic films, soap operas, etc., are “pleasurable,” where then does pleasure reside within the “text”? One might consider how the text itself describes the pleasure of the romantic experience and how textual characters experience pleasure in relation to romance.
  4. What are the pleasures of consuming a romantic text? How adequate are existing theoretical models, and what new research is available—from any field—that we might bring to bear on this question?
  5. How do we theorize the pleasure of viewing and being viewed? There is much to be said about scopophilia, voyeurism, exhibitionism, and hiding in popular romance, but how do we as consumers of popular romance understand and consider these experiences? What are the ethical and moral problems involved in consuming the pleasure of others through the texts of popular romance? How do we account for the differences between being seen and seeing?
  6. Who are the producers of the pleasurable romantic text? What creative industries produce romantic texts: film studios, television networks, advertising agencies, authors, publishers? How do they consider the pleasure of the consumer in their production of the text?