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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AB – Originally published inReading the Romance challenges popular and often demeaning myths dadway why romantic fiction, one of publishing’s most lucrative categories, captivates millions of women readers. Moreover, Radway suggests that the rejection of some forms of romance books and the perceived degradation of women within them suggests that assuming all female readers read all romance novels is disingenuous.

WGS Summary of “Women Read the Romance” by Janice Radway

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.

The style, Radway points out, is relatively simplistic. Nagaranij10g8 M March 27, at 7: The successful, fulfilling romance novel exists when the author herself has provided meaning for her story through the words she has written. Radway identifies a general narrative trajectory for these so-called ideal romances, beginning with the heroine losing her social identity and then recovering it through a relationship with the hero p.

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.

We know from the article that Dot was extremely bright and articulate. They link signifiers with signifieds not by historical significance and that specific word choice, but to meanings that resonate personally with them. Moreover, as Radway argues, the romance novels never challenge the power of male authority and do not take into account the benefits of greater feminization may have on society p.

Reading The Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature

That such characters often find themselves to be victims of male aggression and almost always resign themselves to jannice conventional roles in life has less to do, Radway argues, with the women readers’ fantasies and choices than with their need to deal with a fear of masculine dominance. As the women read the romance which provides them with the ideas and relationships they crave they reinforce existing patriarchal standards which in turn uphold those relationships as valid and important.

Radway herself expresses preference for reader-response criticism throughout the course of the book, as opposed to the popular new criticism during the s.

Dot Evans was almost 50 years old when the s interviews were conducted by author Janice Radway. Radway, JAReading the Romance: Romaance from ” https: Turning her attention rojance which characteristics are possessed by a so-called “ideal romance”, Radway’s research into the texts recommended to her by the readers turns up the notion first that the romances in these stories are generally between one man and one woman, with a distinct lack of rivals for romantic affection; many of them marry the hero and heroine off early in the book.

Indeed, Radway found that while the women she studied devote themselves to nurturing their families, these wives and mothers receive insufficient devotion or nurturance in return. Radway suggests that because romances may “explore readingg 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.


Radway concludes by encouraging feminists to look more deeply at the causes and outcomes of romance consumption among the female audience while also examining how the romance gratifies needs and desires that are created by contemporary society. Because the romance portrays the successful outcome of a heroine’s union as the result of persoal choice or in some cases luckit negates the influence of “social and political institutions” on the role a woman plays in society and what is expected of her p.

This sort of interpretation keeps romance novel readers from having to guess the interpretation of a text. Radway questions such claims, arguing that critical attention “must shift from the text itself, taken in isolation, to the complex social event of reading.

Romanc, the reading activity still takes female attention away from their family and their relationship with their husbands, leading them to put the books aside if they come into conflict. 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.

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

Asking readers themselves to explore their reading motives, habits, and rewards, she conducted interviews in a midwestern town with forty-two romance readers whom she met through Dorothy Evans, a chain bookstore employee hte has earned a reputation as an expert on romantic fiction.

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.

Views Read Edit View history. In this way, Radway contends, scholars can learn not only where the phenomena comes from but also how to combat its negative effects as well as facilitate the latent feelings of protest and societal challenge within readers toward constructive ends. This article provides insufficient context for those unfamiliar with the subject.

Posted by Evan Cignarella jqnice 4: Such tactics made the romance novel incredibly popular, though similar tactics were not successfully applied to the same degree for other genres because of the huge number of female readers and the fact that romance tadway appeal to women to the degree that they will repeatedly engage in the experience.

It is for this reason that readers feel betrayed or let down when a romance does not live up to the story promised on its cover or contains material with which the yare personally uncomfortable.

In summary, the Smithton women more greatly valued stories in which heroines essentially claim happiness and “integrity” by getting a commitment from their heroes, reaffirming gender roles while also underscoring female power and agency p.

Throughout this section, the conventions of romance novels are discussed. However, Radway points out that despite their varying backgrounds, the romance does not ultimately give women a choice of how to pursue or identify with particular female role models because society has already socialized them into patriarchal settings. Effectively, romance writers profit from allowing readers to question their lot in life without going very deeply or making radical changes.

Link to citation list in Scopus. Yet while there seems to be a lack of quality, this structure is not comprised due to laziness. Please help improve readinf article with a good introductory style. Unlike their husbands, who had not been raised as nor did they evolve into nurturers, romantic heroes were able to express emotional closeness and connectivity. Examining the context in which romance novel reading originates can tell more about the qualities of the text and the power of ideology as it goes through this particular lens.


The women assume that the information about these events was placed in the book by the author when she selected certain words in favor of others.

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 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 want to be sure that it is not a story that is told the same way starring the same people.

Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature. Paradoxically, the books that they read make conventional roles for women seem desirable. Radway notices that the women make assumptions 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.

In general, if readers cannot identify with a character or see them as someone to live vicariously through they are less likely to enjoy the romance.

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.

To combat this many women pull intellectual value out of the novels, particularly those that are based in history, to share historical facts and trivia with their loved ones and in doing so effectively legitimize their interest in the books; as Radway argues, “by claiming for it instructional values, they reassure themselves and their husbands that romance reading is not subversive of cultural kanice or norms but an activity in conformity with them” p. In a new introduction, Janice Radway places the book within the raway of current scholarship and offers both an explanation and critique of the study’s limitations.

Instead the author was condemning societal dogma, which held that women be ultimately satisfied with the role of wife and mother as the pinnacle of their competence. The University of North Carolina Press, The research and information present in many novels serves to make the readers’ interest in the novels more genuine to outside observers and also represents an opportunity to the reader to learn and expand their intellectual capacity and knowledge.

Romance reading, in Radway’s view, allows the reader to obtain “emotional sustenance” without threatening the power relationship in their marriage relationship.