Home » Uncategorized » Cinderella Revisited (Or, Why I Teach the History of the Romance Novel to University Students)

Cinderella Revisited (Or, Why I Teach the History of the Romance Novel to University Students)

In early 2016, as part of an effort to encourage more university Women’s Studies programs to include courses about popular fiction in their offerings, one of the largest US publishing companies, HarperCollins Publishers, created a blog called Gender & Genre (full disclosure: this is currently my publisher), and invited its academically inclined authors of women’s fiction to contribute to it. My piece came directly from my experience teaching romance fiction and the genre romance industry to undergraduate students at Duke University. As part of our ongoing conversation about women and popular fiction, I’m sharing it here.



  1. Hi Katherine, thanks for sharing your article. As a mum of two young daughters myself, it’s interesting to see how these old stories with their antiquated views of gender roles are still being served up to new generations, e.g. the Disney live action remakes of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. I suppose the counterpoint in the Disney world would be the casting of a strong, independent female lead in the new Star Wars films (and associated novels ;)). Modern pop culture, whole still seemingly stuck in the past to a certain extent, does seem to at least be trying to move forward to embrace a wider vision of the scope of female identity. The fact that a lot of these new heroines need to be princesses or of some kind of royal lineage in order to justify their worthiness in the story, however, would suggest we still have quite a way to go.

    • Well said, Cristel. The princess fantasy is still strong in our popular imagination. Perhaps it’s particularly strong because of the powerful rags-to-riches myth that underpins so much of American exceptionalism. In that case the princess fantasy would be about both class and gender. It’s certainly intertwined more often than not in genre romances. Thanks for commenting!

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