- Creating Identity
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The Popular Romance Heroine's Journey to Selfhood and Self-Presentation
Published by: Indiana University Press
While the world often categorizes women in reductive false binaries—careerist versus mother, feminine versus fierce—romance novels, a unique form of the love story, offer an imaginative space of mingled alternatives for a heroine on her journey to selfhood.
In Creating Identity, Jayashree Kamblé examines the romance genre, with its sensile flexibility in retaining what audiences find desirable and discarding what is not, by asking an important question: "Who is the romance heroine, and what does she want?" To find the answer, Kamblé explores how heroines in ten novels reject societal labels and instead remake themselves on their own terms with their own agency. Using a truly intersectional approach, Kamblé combines gender and sexuality, Marxism, critical race theory, and literary criticism to survey various aspects of heroines' identities, such as sexuality, gender, work, citizenship, and race.
Ideal for readers interested in gender studies and literary criticism, Creating Identity highlights a genre in which heroines do not accept that independence and strong, loving relationships are mutually exclusive but instead demand both, echoing the call from the very readers who have made this genre so popular.
Introduction: Who is the Romance Heroine and What Does She Want?
Jayashree Kamblé is Professor of English at LaGuardia Community College at the City University of New York and President of the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance. She is author of Making Meaning in Popular Romance Fiction: An Epistemology and editor (with Eric Murphy Selinger and Hsu-Ming Teo) of The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Romance Fiction.
"Creating Identity makes a strong and original argument. It offers a new way to think about the romance novel and to explain its massive readership among women."~Catherine Roach, author of Happily Ever After: The Romance Story in Popular Culture
"Here is an important work that expands the scholarship on romance and presents the genre in its truest form—not simply a means of escape and. fantasy, but as an ever-evolving representation of modern identity. Through analysis of heroines' relationships to gender, work, community and sexuality on their journey to their truest selves (with or without love), Creating Identity offers a new way of thinking about the romance genre. Kamblé reveals the work romance does in conversation with readers, presenting us with heroines in whom we see ourselves—grappling alongside us with experiences, hopes and the future, in stories that honor the complexity, nuance and possibility that come of full, rich lives . . . lives that include love, but are not limited to it. Creating Identity is a welcome addition to the way we think and talk about romance novels, their heroines, and the world beyond the books."~Sarah MacLean and Jennifer Prokop, Fated Mates Podcast
"In Creating Identity, Kamblé allows readers to see the archetype of the romantic heroine anew. Kamblé makes a compelling case for the heroine's complexity, depth, and ultimately heroism, as she confronts societal constraints and expectations to define her life and HEA on her own terms."~Nicole M. Jackson, Department of History, Bowling Green State University
"I cannot recommend Creating Identity: The Popular Romance Heroine's Journey to Selfhood and Self-Presentation highly enough. In her thoughtful reassessment of the notion of the "heroic journey," Jayashree Kamblé produces a nuanced and decentering analysis of the heroine's path to selfhood and agency. Kamblé's theoretical and interpretive tapestry is praiseworthy for handling a range of romance texts (historical to paranormal) and the insight she brings to each romance novel she discusses. Without question, Creating Identity is a must-read for popular romance criticism. More importantly, the work is an indispensable resource not only for popular romance scholarship but also as a pedagogical complement for teachers of contemporary romance fiction."~Margo Hendricks, author of Race & Romance: Coloring the Past