Being the ramblings of a loud, lewd, and literate lady. Who likes alliteration.
Let Slip the Gowns of War: Courtship as Combat in Anthony Trollope’s The Warden
What follows is one of the last papers I wrote as an undergraduate student. It is commetary on the courtship battlefield briefly presented in Anthony Trollope’s The Warden, a book which, in my opinion, has been woefully neglected by the canon of literary criticism and analysis.
“Nothing marked the entrance to adulthood in the eighteenth century like the ceremony of marriage, which made young women into wives and young men into household masters” (Eustace 520).
It is telling that matrimony should represent two such very different things for Victorian men and women; for men it is power, a rite of passage into mastery of his own household, his own destiny, and for women it represents a shift from daughter to wife, human chattel moving from one servile position to another. However, this is not to suggest that marriage was an entirely undesirable state for many women of the time. Indeed, courtship may have presented one of the few opportunities for personal autonomy available to the typical woman of the period. Marriage was serious business for a woman, her “only career,” as Anthony Trollope put it, and as such, the business of marriage could be quite aggressive and overwhelming, for both young women and men (qtd. in Hewitt 227). This politely antagonistic side of courtship is addressed by Trollope in his novel, The Warden. Trollope uses humorous military metaphor to describe the commingling of the genders in order to expose the polite aggression of Victorian courtship rituals.
jessicathemess asked: I'd just like to say that you're a lovely person. I found you through the Vorkosigan tag, and I don't think I've met/discovered anyone who is more the missing half of my brain than you are.
Could’ve sworn I answered this years ago! Sorry for the lag, jessthemess: This was a lovely message to come back to, and it’s always awesome to find a kindred spirit/like-minded internet stranger. I hope I don’t disappoint ;P
Smart Bitches Unite: Identity, Community, and Activism in the Modern Romance Reader Blog
So, once there was this time (about 2 years ago) that I wrote a paper about the Smart Bitches website for my pop-culture class. And the prof loved it, and asked for a copy to use as an exemplar for future students doing this assignment. And more importantly, my sister liked it, and told me to post it. So here ‘tis:
“Everyone has a very firm idea of what the average romance reader is like. We bet you already know her. She’s rather dim and kind of tubby —- undereducated and undersexed —- and she displays a distressing affinity for mom jeans” (Wendell & Tam 4). For all the years that romance has existed as a separate and distinct genre in popular fiction, romance novels and their readers have been denigrated and undervalued. There is a clear and pervasive prejudice against the genre; the stereotypical romance reader is generally a pathetic lonely housewife or a spinster, who consumes large quantities of chocolate and possibly owns a great many cats. She is not particularly intelligent, nor is she vivacious. The novels themselves are characterized as hackneyed and formulaic, when they aren’t being called outright pornographic, and the genre is rarely granted any artistic or cultural value. As an avid romance reader (since age 12), I often find myself grinding my teeth over phrases like “but you’re too smart to read that crap! Aren’t you an English major?” “I can’t believe you read that chick porn,” or “all those books are the same; formulaic and badly written.” This is an incredibly frustrating and isolating experience. Fortunately, there is a thriving, intellectual fandom community to be found online, a forum which allows romance readers to cooperatively use the romance novel to “construct meanings of self, of social identity, and social relations” (Fiske 112). Participation in these online communities provides contributors and readers with a sense of identity as members of a subset of a larger romance reading community, and enables active debate, not only of the genre and its stigmas, but also of politics and the morality of the publishing industry.
For the purposes of this paper, I will be examining the online community surrounding the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog, created and operated by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tam. The basic premise of the site is that the authors and commenters are intelligent, if somewhat profane, professional women with advanced degrees, who nevertheless enjoy critiquing and reading romance novels. This particular blog is a very clear example of community and identity building in online fandoms. Fandom members take a commodity, in this case the romance novel, and use it, as well as their own reactions to it, to define themselves both as individuals and as a community. In this fandom, reviews of romance novels and discussions of romance novel tropes create a dialogue and a sense of commonality between commenters. Members are drawn to the forum because of a shared love of romance novels, and they stay and become active members of the community because they are able to relate to other commenters. They form social bonds, while still asserting their individuality, by posting their own preferences and thoughts on any given subject.