Corporate heroines and utopian individualism: A study of the romance novel in global capitalism
Young, Erin S.
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Young, Erin S.
This dissertation explores two subgenres of popular romance fiction that emerge in the 1990s: "corporate" and "paranormal" romance. While the formulaic conventions of popular romance have typically centralized the gendered tension between hero and heroine, this project reveals that "corporate" and "paranormal" romances negotiate a new primary conflict, the tension between work and home in the era of global capitalism. Transformations in political economy also occur at the level of personal and emotional life, which constitute the central problem that contemporary romances attempt to resolve. Drawing from sociological studies of globalization and intimacy, feminist criticism, and queer theory, I argue that these subgenres mark the transition from what David Harvey calls Fordist capitalism to flexible or global capitalism as the primary social condition negotiated in the popular romance. My analysis demonstrates that corporate and paranormal romance novels reflect changing ideals about intimacy in a globalized world that is increasingly influenced, socially and culturally, by the values and philosophies that dominate the marketplace. Each of these subgenres offers a distinct formal resolution to the cultural and social effects of a flexible capitalist economy. The "corporate" romances of Jayne Ann Krentz, Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Lowell, and Katherine Stone feature heroines who constantly navigate the dual and intersecting arenas of work and home in an effort to locate a balance that leads to success and happiness in both realms. In contrast, the "paranormal" romances of Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, Kelley Armstrong, and Carrie Vaughn dissolve the tension between home and work, or the private and the public, by affirming the heroine's open and endless pursuit of pleasure, adventure, and self-fulfillment. Such new forms of romantic fantasy at once reveal the tension in globalization and the domination of corporate and masculinist values that the novels hope to overcome.
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