Reading the Romance. Women, Piz~n’archy, a d Popular Lzterature. J A N I C E A.. R A D W A Y. With a Nav Intmductwn by the Author fiQ1). The University of. Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature [Janice A. Radway] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Originally. Women Read the Romance: The Interaction of Text and Context. Author(s): Janice A. Radway. Reviewed work(s). Source: Feminist Studies, Vol. 9, No.

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By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Radway questions such claims, jwnice that critical attention “must shift from the text itself, taken in isolation, to the complex social event of reading.

First, the Smithton women sought out romance novels due to their difference from real life and the escape they offered from everyday concerns and responsibilities. Link to citation list in Scopus. Continued rpmance to these messages also has more direct impacts on the reader. Radway suggests that when the Smithton women called a romance without a happy ending undesirable, it is because an unhappy ending threatens their ritualized understanding of the myth; essentially the women want to participate in reading the romance novel but dadway to be sure that it is not a story that is told the same way starring the same people.

Radway summarizes the history of romance novel publishing in the United States, concluding that economic demands dictated a system in which ideal audiences for novels were selected ahead of time rather than engage in complex and expensive advertising. The romance teaches women how to live in a patriarchal society and “displays the remarkable benefits of conformity” p.

For example, the reader may repetitively seek out this form of media to convince themselves that the love and other desirable parts of the romance may occur in real life. Regardless, by engaging in the reading of romances women nonetheless engage in subversive activity, though it is activity that is legitimated by societal and patriarchal values. Radway suggests that these romances are often depressing or less female-positive than others or may contain degrading sexual scenes, and that women may see the rejection of such stories as a form of “safe protest against certain kinds of patriarchal treatment of women” that would not jeopardize their social relationships.

In the s, specific brnads like Harlequin were introduced to further facilitate the commodification of literature, consumer research into audience buying habits and motives for reading made it easier to target these novels to their specific audience.

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Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature

Through her study of the Smithton women who shared the common experience of reading romance novels, Radway discovered several common characteristics.

Romance literature acts as “compensatory literature” that allows women the chance to engage in guiltless pleasure activity without removing themselves too far from their familial obligations; the more a reader identifies with the central character the more powerful this feeling will be p. The University of North Carolina Press, Radway suggests that this allows women to relive periods in their life where they were nurtured and vared for by an individual that was signularly devoted to their welfare essentially reclaiming their childhood and parental relationships.


Taking this into account, Radway contends that the ideal romance tells the narrative tale of women becoming actualized females as defined by society; the romance shows them “how to achieve emotional fulfillment” in a culture where most men are indifferent to their needs p. Therefore, the romance creates a “utopian state” in which men are “neither cruel nor indifferent” nor reluctant to engage in a relationship with a woman and the paternal relationship can still exist p.

These romance readers resent not only the limited choices in their own lives but the patronizing atitude that men especially express toward their reading tastes. Originally published inReading the Romance challenges popular and often demeaning myths about why romantic fiction, one of publishing’s most lucrative categories, captivates millions of women readers.

Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature — Northwestern Scholars

The successful, fulfilling romance novel exists when the author herself has provided meaning for her story through the words she has written. The book continues to sell at much the same rate it did in its first year of publication, having been adopted as a critical text in the fields of anthropology, sociology, history, and radwway studies, as well as in literary criticism.

We know from the article that Dot was extremely bright and articulate. The goal with these lines was to reduce uncertainty and increase the predictability of sales without having to find a new audience for each book – if women knew what to expect from the line of novels, they would know what to expect from the new one. Rsading suggests that because romances may “explore the meaning and consequences of behavior accepted by contemporary society as characteristically masculine” they may not be engaging in such content for perverse reasons but rather to show that “exaggerated masculinity is not life-threatening to women” p.

N2 – Originally published inReading the Romance challenges popular and often demeaning myths about why romantic fiction, one of publishing’s most lucrative categories, captivates millions of women readers.

Radway plainly states that simply reducing the practice of book buying to a relationship between the book and its audience leaves out the institutional and economic concerns of book publish and distribution.

Radway notices that the women make rwdway about authorial intent when it comes to the words written within the book, believing that the author chooses words that mean what they say they mean; as a result they are not skeptical about the words chosen or what they may represent or the significance that the author themselves assigns to a word as a signifier.


Radway herself expresses preference for reader-response criticism throughout the course of the book, as opposed to the popular new criticism during the s. Among those who have disparaged romance reading are feminists, literary critics, and theorists of mass culture.

Radway suggests that this makes romance novels compensatory literature because it allows women to live vicariously through a fictional hero whose attractiveness and desirability is confirmed through an ideal or dream male; romance novels also allow the janie to engage romancf and create a mental space that allows them to continue feeling as though they are learning and growing as people. However, women may often feel guilt over their reading.

In this way the observer becomes important: Publishers set out to create lines of novels that were known quantities among these groups, controlling the production and creating a set formula that was facilitated by new binding and production technologies allowing for more books to be published faster.

According to Radway, while romances begin in a place of self-actualization and champion individualism in women, they are written by women who have been socialized into a patriarchal standard in which they must be mothering; therefore, the romance does not necessarily declare that individualism is without worth but it rather champions a form of female identity “demanded by patriarchal parenting arrangements” p.

Reading romance novels is a private activity that provides a dividing wall between the reader and their real world obligations, providing them a “free space” in which they can escape into a world where a woman with needs similar to their own can have those needs met; essentially they “vicariously attend to their own requirements as independent individuals who require emotional roomance and fortitude” p.

Please help improve the article with a good introductory style. These realistic characteristics are balanced with the admission by those who read romance novels that the stories are fantasies unreflected in reality; however, this is not indicative of the stories themselves so much as it is that the women may not perceive their lives to live up to the ideals present in the novels.

This too would explain why so many of the readers admitted to reading the last page first – they reaeing to be sure that the story upheld its bargain in upkeeping the valorous or mythic elements they were used to. They also tended to prefer stories written by amateurs interested in writing such stories because they shared a common value and interest in the qualities of romantic literature.