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What Is “The Romance Novel” Course?

Empowered heroines? Great sex? Wildly popular?



If you’re a Duke undergrad or graduate student visiting here for the first time, welcome!

“The Romance Novel” course (HST 248S.01) is for students interested in popular culturepopular fiction, history, literature, questions of race, ethnicitygender and sexualities (femininity and masculinity), writing, and creative entrepreneurship.

This course explores the history, development, consumption and form of the modern commercial novel through a study of the most popular fiction in the world today: the romance novel. Throughout the semester we investigate the romance novel’s role in popular American culture, its rise to dominate 50% of the U.S. publishing market, and the dramatic changes that have occurred in the past several years in the publishing industry, largely driven by changes in romance fiction. We examine romance in its context in the larger publishing and entertainment industries, how creative projects become commercial products, and the gender politics of both the reception and rejection of romance — a women-driven and controlled industry — in the broader culture. We address issues of female agency as well as models of femininity and masculinity that often seek to define and constrict creative work in the commercial world, and explore questions of race and sexuality in romance fiction and the industry as well. In short, we engage in a critical, active discussion of a massive cultural phenomenon that is often overlooked in university studies.

Additionally, this course teaches the tools to better understand writing as an act of entrepreneurship and how to make a viable, successful career out of creative endeavor. Our studies include the choices a writer must make in shaping her or his career in publishing (publication with a traditional publisher? self-publish? ebook only? print distribution?), marketing (branding, social media, packaging, networking, platform), and the development of an artistic career with conscious intent through the determination of long-term career goals and the establishment of a plan to reach them. Students will work on writing skills as they begin to write their own novels.

This blog belongs to students registered in the class and is a creation of the class as a whole. Additionally, throughout the semester we welcome into the classroom special guests — industry professionals and luminaries, who share and debate with students on topics concerning writing, creative careers, publishing, sexuality, gender, race, history, and literature. Click here for this year’s UNSUITABLE Speakers Series schedule.

The course meets Spring 2016 semester, Mondays and Wednesdays 4:40-5:55pm.  Students earn W, ALP, CZ and CCI credit (with EI potential).

You can learn about the course instructors here, and contact them with questions.

I look forward to seeing you in the classroom in January!

– Katharine Brophy Dubois

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