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It Starts Now!

Welcome! UNSUITABLE’s seventh year of conversations about women, history and popular fiction begins on Friday, February 19th, with author Robin Covington. Register now for…


A Conversation with Robin Covington

Join us via Zoom on Friday, February 19, at noon EST for a conversation with bestselling author Robin Covington about writing fiction that celebrates how, even after the roughest night, dawn promises new beginnings.

A USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller and biracial Native American author of color, Robin Covington proudly writes diverse romance. Robin’s books have won the National Reader’s Choice and Golden Leaf Awards and finaled in the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice, HOLT Medallion, and the Book Seller’s Best.

Free and open to the public.  ***Pre-registration required.***

Zoom registration link: https://duke.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJ0qdu2hqTMpE9P76_gu3xvSQvXBTAYqZPn6

Support comes from the Carolyn C. and William M. McClatchey endowment to Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at Duke University.

Save the dates:

March 12th Writing Closed-Door Romance with award-winning author Piper Huguley

March 22nd Re-mixing a Legend: Young Adult Fantasy Fiction, Arthurian Legend, and Southern Black Girl Magic with bestselling author Tracy Deonn

March 24th Made for Each Other? Developing Romance Protagonists with bestselling author Caroline Linden

March 31st What Makes a Great Romance Novel? with editor John R. Jacobson

April 14th Diversity in Romance Publishing: An Insider’s Perspective with literary agent and editor Latoya Smith

Find Zoom registration links to each of the 2021 season’s events on the Public Events page.

Schedule Update for UNSUITABLE Events this Spring

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we have had to cancel or make private the remaining events in the Spring 2020 UNSUITABLE series. Please join us in person in Spring 2021 for the continuation of our public speakers series. Until then, we hope you stay safe and well.

Cancelled: Pride and Prejudice Redux on March 16

Please note that the UNSUITABLE event “Pride and Prejudice Redux” featuring Uzma Jalaluddin and Eileen Chow, originally scheduled for March 16, has been cancelled due to Duke University’s extended spring break.

The April 1 and April 13 events have not yet been cancelled or changed. Please consult the schedule closer to those dates.

We look forward to hopefully  seeing you soon!

Spring 2019 Events Sneak Peek

Here at UNSUITABLE we’re busy planning an exciting Spring 2019 season of visitors.  Mark your calendars and save the dates for award-winning author of gorgeous contemporary romances Sonali Dev on February 15th, and bestselling author of brilliantly original historical romances Theresa Romain on March 22nd.  Look for more special guest announcements to come soon, and please note our change of venue: events will take place at this year’s UNSUITABLE sponsor, the MicroWorlds Lab, on Duke’s East Campus (easier parking!).

See you in the Spring!

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.


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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