Five years ago, at a hotel bar in Boston, Sarah S. G. Frantz and I sat down with a half-dozen scholars from the U.S., Australia, and elsewhere to plan a new era in popular romance studies. We needed a professional organization, we decided, and an international conference, to get new conversations started among those who study love in popular fiction, film, and other media. Most of all, we needed a journal, rigorously peer-reviewed and easily accessed on line, to make the best new work on popular romance available to our colleagues and our students.
Five years on, each goal has been met beyond our wildest expectations. The International Association for the Study of Popular Romance has over 200 members worldwide; the fourth IASPR conference is coming up next September at York University, UK (the call for papers runs through May 30, 2012); and this fourth issue of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies features a groundbreaking essay on rape in popular romance, an interview with Agnès Caubet, publisher of the French webzine Les Romantiques, two substantial book reviews, and a “Special Forum” of six essays on the American romance novelist, Jennifer Crusie.
As you will see from the Editor’s Introduction that accompanies that Forum, there are many reasons why Crusie warrants this sort of extended attention. One, though, deserves particular mention here at the start of the issue overall. At the Popular Culture Association conference where IASPR and JPRS were planned, Crusie herself not only spoke, but organized and hosted an authors’ panel, bringing her fellow American authors Suzanne Brockmann and Mary Bly, who writes as Eloisa James, to speak to us aspiring romance scholars.
This was not, let me note, the first time that a group of popular romance authors had addressed academics on an equal footing. As far back as 1997 and 2000, for example, Bowling Green State University hosted conferences featuring Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jayne Anne Krentz, and Crusie, among others. It was, however, a transformative experience for those of us gathered in Boston, most of whom (including myself) were still quite new to the field.
Whatever our scholarly organization and annual conferences looked like, we decided that night at the bar, it should have room for the creators and editors and non-academic scholars of popular romance, in whatever medium, to join the conversation—just as, for example, the creators, editors, and aficionados of poetry have long done. We are pleased to note, then, that expanded version of Bly’s Boston talk was recently published in the book that Sarah and I edited, New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction: Critical Essays, and this issue of JPRS includes a contribution co-authored by Kate Moore, author of eleven popular romance novels—among them finalists for the American RITA award.
As Walt Whitman says, then, this issue is dedicated to “You, Whoever You Are.” We look forward to your comments on our essays, reviews, and interviews, and if they prove useful in your own teaching or research, we hope you’ll let us know, or submit the work that they inspire.