Romance and the Erotics of Property: Mass-market Fiction for Women

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Duke University Press, 1988 - Literary Criticism - 181 pages
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Romance and the Erotics of Property examines contemporary popular romance from a number of different points of view, probing for codes and subtexts that sometimes exploit and sometimes contradict its surface tale of romantic attraction, frustration, longing, and fulfillment.
Cohn argues that a full understanding of the contemporary romance requires an investigation of its literary and historical sources and analogues. Three principal sources are examined in the context of women's history in bourgeois society. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Erye, and Gone With the Wind demonstrate the development of romance fiction's themes, yet in all three the central love story is complicated by issues of property, the sign of male power. Jan Cohn further considers the development of the genre n the fictions of Harriet Lewis and May Agnes Fleming, prolific and popular American romance writers of the late nineteenth century who developed the role of the villain, thereby bringing into focus the sexual and economic struggles faced by the heroine.
Romance and the Erotics of Property sets romance fiction against a historic and literary background, arguing that contemporary romance disguises as tales of love the subversive fantasies of female appropriation and male property and power.
 

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Page 53 - He was young — perhaps from twenty-eight to thirty — tall, slender ; his face riveted the eye ; it was like a Greek face, very pure in outline : quite a straight, classic nose ; quite an Athenian mouth and chin. It is seldom, indeed, an English face comes so near the antique models as did his.
Page 55 - I should suffer often, no doubt, attached to him only in this capacity: my body would be under rather a stringent yoke, but my heart and mind would be free. I should still have my unblighted self to turn to: my natural unenslaved feelings with which to communicate in moments of loneliness.
Page 52 - Half reclined on a couch appeared Mr. Rochester, his foot supported by the cushion. He was looking at Adele and the dog ; the fire shone full on his face. I knew my traveller, with his broad and jetty eyebrows, his square forehead, made squarer by the horizontal sweep of his black hair.
Page 139 - It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.
Page 51 - Something of daylight still lingered, and the moon was waxing bright : I could see him plainly. His figure was enveloped in a riding cloak, fur collared, and steel clasped ; its details were not apparent, but I traced the general points of middle height, and considerable breadth of chest. He had a dark face, with stern features and a heavy
Page 136 - But still he would be her husband. Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want.
Page 55 - There would be recesses in my mind which would be only mine, to which he never came ; and sentiments growing there fresh and sheltered, which his austerity could never blight...
Page 6 - And this suggests that narrativity, certainly in factual storytelling and probably in fictional storytelling as well, is intimately related to, if not a function of, the impulse to moralize reality, that is, to identify it with the social system that is the source of any morality that we can imagine.
Page 7 - It is in the context of the gradual reification of realism in late capitalism that romance once again comes to be felt as the place of narrative heterogeneity and of freedom from that reality principle to which a now oppressive realistic representation is the hostage.
Page 95 - Janice Radway, Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984).

About the author (1988)

Jan Cohn was G. Keith Funston Professor of American Literature and American Studies at Trinity College and the author of four other books, including Creating America (1989).

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