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!

TODAY: Queer Romance Goes Mainstream

On March 23, UNSUITABLE welcomes author Damon Suede for a conversation about the rich and sometimes controversial history of gay romance, and the state of this popular sub-genre today. Join us at noon in 011 Old Chem on the campus of Duke University.

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.


Our Spring ’17 Speakers are Here!

Join us on Duke’s West campus in January and February for three wonderful FREE & PUBLIC conversations about publishing, fiction and romance:

January 25, 6:30pm – “Marketing Digital Fiction” with HarperCollins Publishers’ Shawn Nicholls, Associate Publisher

February 8, 6:30pm – “Romance, Shakespeare & Popular Appeal” with New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James and Executive in Residence at Duke, John Forlines III

February 15, 6:30pm – “‘Colin Firth in Clingy Pants’: The Romance Appeal of Pride & Prejudice” with New York Times bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries.

More details here: https://sites.duke.edu/unsuitable/events/

Spring 2016 “UNSUITABLE” Series Speakers

Join us this Spring for a lineup of wonderful speakers and conversations about fiction, feminism, masculinity, and diversity in the world of romance fiction. Our events begin on February 3rd with Dabney Grinnan, publisher of the website All About Romance, discussing feminism and the romance blogosphere, and continue on February 24th with New York Times bestselling author Sarah MacLean chatting about “Old School Romance.” Click on this link for the entire Spring 2016 schedule of events.

UNSUITABLE events are free and open to the public. 

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

Welcome to the Conversation


Women’s activities — both entertainment and employment — are often considered less serious or less important than men’s. Often they’re even deemed unworthy pursuits, unsuitable for women to engage in and enjoy. Women regularly find themselves justifying their choices and preferences at great length or, alternately, hiding them. In the realm of entertainment, nowhere is this more obvious than in the fiction many women choose to read.

UNSUITABLE is a space for open, frank and informed conversation about women and popular fiction historically and today, as well as related topics. We welcome you to join in the conversation both here on the blog and at our events throughout the year.

Click here to learn more about us.

Regarding comments: All comments are subject to moderator approval. Anonymous comments will not be approved. No slander or hate language is allowed on this site. This is a space for informed, educated conversation. We ask visitors to maintain that level of discussion. We welcome your participation.

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