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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Among those who have disparaged romance reading are feminists, literary critics, and theorists of mass culture. 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.

However, such feelings are not necessarily positive, as Radway contends that “the vicarious pleasure offered by romantic fictional finally may be satisfying enough to forestall the need for more substantial change in the reader’s life” p. Radway suggests that because romances may “explore the 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.

Reading the Romance – Wikipedia

Moreover, the Smithton readers reject promiscuity and other forms of non-traditional romance or love that does not derive from genuine commitment and attraction; they also tend not to enjoy romances involving individuals who are not the main characters or romances that have unhappy endings that reject the notion of idealized romance.

Still others may take a more ambiguous approach if they study how narratives are formed over time. 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 standards or norms but an activity in conformity with them” p.

We know from the article that Dot was extremely bright and articulate. Essentially, the romance is part of a culture that creates “needs in women that it cannot fulfill”; yet, the ability to vicariously fulfill these needs makes the romance a powerful genre and leads to “repetitive consumption” by women p.

They also tended to prefer stories written by amateurs interested in writing such stories because they shared a common value and interest in the qualities of romantic literature. Women also often feel uncomfortable spending money on the romance novels though they recognize that their husbands and family members spend money on their interests; the subject matter and imagery on the covers may also create what the readers feel are false impressions that they are reading the books for sexual gratification.

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.

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.

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. According rkmance Radway, while romances begin in a place of self-actualization and champion rwdway in women, they are written by women who have been socialized into a patriarchal standard in which they must be mothering; therefore, the romance does not necessarily declare that individualism is without worth but it rather champions a form of female identity “demanded by patriarchal parenting arrangements” p.


Continued exposure to these messages also has more direct impacts on the reader. Retrieved from ro,ance https: The book continues to sell at much the same rate it did in its first year of publication, having been adopted as a critical text in the fields of anthropology, sociology, history, and library studies, as well as in literary criticism.

The University of North Carolina Press, In this way the observer becomes important: So, Dot would say that the women of her generation gladly assumed a role in society with which they were satisfied initially, but once their fundamental needs for safety and security were met, they soon discovered their role did not nourish their growing needs for a healthy self-identity — concepts which arose after WWII and evolved as the country entered the social revolution of the s.

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. 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.

Radway, JAReading the Romance: Access to Document Link to publication in Scopus. However, Radway is somewhat skeptical of these conclusions. Despite their intelligence, the ideal heroine of a romance, Radway states, must also be “innocent” and naive to the ways of sexuality and remain aloof and detached in terms of attracting sexual attention while also being sexually attractive; they can only shed this image in the context of a sexual encounter with a male lover.

This essentially turned romance novels into a commodity, unlike more traditional forms of literature sold through traditional revenues.

Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature

The successful, radwayy romance novel exists when the author herself has provided meaning for her story through the words she has written. They claim that romances enforce the woman reader’s dependence on men and acceptance of the repressive ideology purveyed by popular culture. Link to citation list in Scopus. 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.

Radway plainly states that simply reducing the practice of book buying to a relationship between the book and its audience leaves out the institutional geading economic concerns of book publish and distribution. The women preferred stories with strong male leads, which also reaffirmed traditional gender roles of male strength; at the same time, however, the men were not prized for their individual characteristics but rather for their role in relation to the heroine.

Paradoxically, the books that they read make conventional roles for women seem desirable. The radday that the stories are written also has a significant impact on the creation of identity and the construction of meaning; Radway points out that “repetitive use of the same, limited vocabulary” leads to faster reader comprehension and also facilitates the reader to make quick sense of other entrants into the romance genre by creating frames the reader can then apply to those stories.

Reading The Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature

Building upon her earlier observations about the effects of romance novel reading and the reasons women read novels, Radway suggests that the construction of meaning in romance novels is complex and negotiated between the reader and the text, with the reader bringing their own real-world experience and knowledge to the text and attepting to make connections between the text and their own world.


Through her study of the Smithton women who shared the common experience of reading romance novels, Radway discovered several common characteristics. Romance literature acts as “compensatory literature” that allows women the chance to engage in guiltless pleasure activity without removing themselves too far from their familial obligations; the more a reader identifies with the central character the more powerful this feeling will be p.

Radway suggests that this makes romance novels compensatory literature because it allows women to live vicariously through a fictional hero whose attractiveness and desirability is confirmed through an ideal or dream male; romance novels also allow the readers to engage intellectually and create a mental space that allows them to continue feeling as though they are learning and growing as people.

In romances the women find not only escape from the demanding and often tiresome routines of their lives but also a hero who supplies the tenderness and admiring attention that they have learned not to expect. Again, women use the books as a subversive influence or source of protest without fully understanding that these books are placed firmly within the patriarchy. Originally published inReading the Romance challenges popular and often demeaning myths about why romantic fiction, one of publishing’s most lucrative categories, captivates millions of women readers.

Newer Post Older Post Home. By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use th Privacy Policy. It is this complex relationship between culture, text, and woman reader that Radway urges feminists to address.

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

Nagaranij10g8 M March 27, at 7: As discussed above, Radway states that romance novels act as a means of escape and catharsis due to their status as material that can be picked up and put down easily. Edison Aloysius July 3, at 6: Radway suggests that these less than ideal romances echo problems in their real-life relationships.

Regardless, Radway argues, several of the ideal romances showed that many women viewed the romance not simply as the tale of a woman who is successful in love but also as the story of a brutish or distant man who is transformed into an idealized mate by the love of a woman; this allows them to vicariously demand that men become more trustworthy and accommodating to female feelings and needs.

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. Radway summarizes the history of romance novel publishing in the United States, concluding that economic demands dictated a system in which ideal audiences for novels were selected ahead of time rather than engage in complex and expensive advertising.

Radway puts the onus for these feelings of guilt on a society which prizes work janife highly than it prizes recreation, as well as a society that both champions female sexuality as a selling point while still being cautious or restrictive about it in any other context.