Today I’m interviewing Sarah Frantz, reviewer at Dear Author and longtime fan of COP.
Tell us a little about yourself. What you do, either for a living or for fun or both.
I’m Associate (yay tenure!) Professor of Literature at Fayetteville State University in NC, but I’m also the President of the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance: http://iaspr.org. We’re an academic organization that studies romantic love in all popular media throughout history. We put on annual conferences (next year: York, UK!), and have a peer-reviewed, open access, online journal: http://jprstudies.org. I feel strongly enough about this organization that I have the logo tattooed on my wrist.
I’ve got an academic anthology I edited coming out next year: New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction. My article in there talks about Joey Hill’s BDSM romance, Holding the Cards. I’m ALSO in the (very slow) process of writing a book called ALPHA MALE: POWER AND MASCULINITY IN AMERICAN POPULAR ROMANCE FICTION. I’ll have a chapter in there about m/m romance.
How did you end up studying romance at this level and in this manner? Was it something that called to you or something you fell into, or somewhere between?
My dissertation was about late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century British women novelists and how and why they wrote and constructed their male characters, something that’s received very little attention, believe it or not. But my first published article was about popular romance fiction. After I got my job, I was content to work the Jane Austen circuit, but then I heard about this guy, Eric Selinger, who was doing work in popular romance fiction. So I went to the Popular Culture Association in 2007 to meet him…and the rest is pretty much history.
At PCA 2007 and 2008, we decided that if Popular Romance Studies was ever to be a viable field, it needed four things: a dedicated academic organization, a dedicated peer-reviewed journal, dedicated conferences, and someone at a Ph.D.-granting institution able to teach and mentor graduate students. We’ve done the first three, still working on the last one.
This is definitely something that calls to me. Although I could have been happy working on Austen, what I’m doing instead is being instrumental in creating an entire academic field. And that’s a one in a million shot, something that most scholars couldn’t even dream of. And to do it for something I love, something that brings me so much joy, that just makes it so much more worth it.
What’s the most compelling aspect of studying romance as an academic to you? What does it teach you and what do you feel you give back to the genre?
Wow. Um, I adore figuring out how much romance authors play with the genre conventions. You guys are constantly messing with the conventions, changing them, adapting them, messing with them, in order to create different effects, to make different, powerful points. And I just love figuring that out.
I hope that, in a small way, I’m giving back to the genre that’s brought me so much joy. While I don’t think that romance needs academic recognition to have legitimacy — it has that all on its own — I still think that by insisting on romance’s right to be studied, we bring a measure of legitimacy to women’s writing as a whole.
Ideal man/woman/one of each:
My partners. One of each.
Favorite movies/books/TV shows
Don’t watch TV but love QUEER AS FOLK on DVD. Favorite Movies: LATTER DAYS and FRENCH KISS
Favorite Books: Alternates between PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and PERSUASION. Modern romances: Suzanne Brockmann’s HEART THROB, Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ IT HAD TO BE YOU, Alex Beecroft’s FALSE COLORS, K.A. Mitchell’s NO SOUVENIRS, Heidi Cullinan’s SPECIAL DELIVERY.
What brought you to Coffee and Porn in the Morning? Favorite part?
Heidi and Marie and hot hot pictures.
Social Media: Love it? Hate it? Discuss.
Love it. Love love love it. It’s kept me close with my friends when I’m away from them and has helped me find new friends. It’s allowed me to connect with authors and with other readers and with other scholars in such a way that my work stays vibrant and new and interesting.
Definitely Twitter. I started lo those many years ago (2004) with LiveJournal, but Twitter has allowed me to connect with readers and authors and scholars and to STAY connected with them when we’re not at conferences. The communal nature of Twitter, the relationships that you can establish, is amazing and invaluable.
Do you have any guilty pleasures you’d like to confess?
I prefer not to be guilty about anything that brings me pleasure
That’s a good philosophy, I have to say.
It’s a hard-won philosophy, don’t get me wrong. There are things that I do that are not…generally acceptable by “community” standards (although, obviously, everything depends on your community.) But I try. We’re all works in progress, yes?
Yes, I’d have to agree.
Thanks for stopping by, Sarah!