Date of Award

May 2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

English

First Advisor

Tasha Oren

Committee Members

Patrice Petro, Michael Zimmer, Kristie Hamilton, Eric Selinger

Keywords

Cultural Studies, Fan Studies, Genre Studies, Media Studies, Romance, Television Studies

Abstract

Genres like romance have long been seen as nodes of cultural conversation that negotiate broader social tensions around women’s lives and desires. As media industries increasingly design products to function across media platforms and serve as part of larger transmedia franchises, the technological and market structures which once helped to separate different areas of media production are becoming more porous. This project addresses the movement of audiences, texts, and creators across platforms and considers the ways popular genres and their various sub-categories work at both micro and macro levels.

This project focuses on four specific production networks for romantic content: commercial romance literature, romantic fan writing, romantic comedy films, and television's reality wedding shows. Each mode of production I examine in this project seeks to represent certain experiences of love and partnership, constructing different romantic "packages" from which audiences select. Each also struggles to accommodate different audience experiences and negotiate cultural tensions. The first two chapters emphasize the erotic fantasies available to romance readers, exploring ways digital reading and production has led to an expansion of romance categories, more explicit content, and is facilitating amateur and non-commercial production. I argue that commercial and fan romances are linked systems of cultural production, each interested in narratives focused on love, desire, and partnership. Next, the focus shifts to moving images, looking at the narrative structures of popular film and television romances and the way they organize women’s aspirational fantasies. Here, high production costs and global distribution produce complicated relationships between media producers and their revenue sources: advertisers and audiences. I argue that these shifts in content and narrative structure reflect evolving strategies for navigating divergent audience communities and ideological views and maintaining existing political and economic systems.

Rather than taking a taxonomic approach to genre, this dissertation argues that genre is a broad process of cultural mediation, extending across media forms and beyond any single commercial market. The project positions romance as a diverse cultural conversation distributed across a complicated network of texts and media platforms. Taking this wider and more discursive approach to romance genres is crucial to this investigation into the ways that collisions between culture, technology, and commerce shape the fantasies presented in romantic stories.

Available for download on Wednesday, June 06, 2018

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