Date

5-11-2020

Description

"Romance novel" might bring to mind a novel being half-heartedly shielded by a woman on a train, its cover bearing a man with long hair caressing a half-dressed woman. They're vulgar, atrociously written, an emblem of everything that is going wrong with our culture and the great literature we have forgotten. Romance novels are far from new, however; the genre truly began with Samuel Richardson's Pamela. Pamela established the qualities every romance has to have, and its success began a fan culture that rivals anything we see today. All romance novels, from beloved classics like Jane Eyre to controversial bestsellers like Fifty Shades of Grey, follow a nearly identical story arc. What bonds these stories together is not the promise and appeal of love, or even sex, it is the appeal of capitalism. The linear, methodical romances described in these novels echo the idealized structure of capitalism, in which love meets fortune at the finale. Unfortunately for readers, the kind of love described in Jane Eyre is not realistically achievable, nor is the instant financial power Anastasia gains when Christian falls for her in Fifty Shades of Grey. These novels create irresistible promises they can never deliver, and their cruel optimism keeps readers coming back again and again, carrying the genre through centuries.

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May 11th, 12:00 AM

You Give Love A Bad Name: Romance, Capitalism, and Cruel Optimism from Pamela to Fifty Shades of Grey

"Romance novel" might bring to mind a novel being half-heartedly shielded by a woman on a train, its cover bearing a man with long hair caressing a half-dressed woman. They're vulgar, atrociously written, an emblem of everything that is going wrong with our culture and the great literature we have forgotten. Romance novels are far from new, however; the genre truly began with Samuel Richardson's Pamela. Pamela established the qualities every romance has to have, and its success began a fan culture that rivals anything we see today. All romance novels, from beloved classics like Jane Eyre to controversial bestsellers like Fifty Shades of Grey, follow a nearly identical story arc. What bonds these stories together is not the promise and appeal of love, or even sex, it is the appeal of capitalism. The linear, methodical romances described in these novels echo the idealized structure of capitalism, in which love meets fortune at the finale. Unfortunately for readers, the kind of love described in Jane Eyre is not realistically achievable, nor is the instant financial power Anastasia gains when Christian falls for her in Fifty Shades of Grey. These novels create irresistible promises they can never deliver, and their cruel optimism keeps readers coming back again and again, carrying the genre through centuries.