Radway and Romance

I don’t know if there’s a post we’re supposed to be responding to, but I figured I’d start things off with some Radway. This article was probably one of my favorites in this class. I think that because Radway focused so closely on one aspect of literature she was able to come up with some an amazing analysis of the genre of romance literature. I’m not sure if I agree with everything she says, but it all made me think. Some of the stuff on rape completely changed the way I’d view such moments in romance lit. That’s all I’ve really got, but if someone else wants to chime in, feel free.

4 responses to “Radway and Romance

  1. Radway’s last paragraph seems to be grasping at something that is near and dear to Benjamin–“If we can learn, then, to look at the ways in which various groups appropriate and the mass-produced art of our culture, I suspect we may well begin to understand that although the ideological power of contemporary cultural forms is enormous, indeed sometimes even frightening, that power is not yet all-pervasive, totally vigilant, or complete” (1048). That is to say, destroying the aura by means of making explicit the apperception of the masses. Yet the two go about reaching their aims quite differently; Benjamin speaks of the automaton’s ability to speak to the public, breaking down all personae, via tactile appropriation, whereas Radway takes a more reader-responsy approach, saying that giving the commodity the power to bring about thought-for-itself neglects the consumer as individual. What do you think?

  2. spotofbother

    I really like the way you compared the two different essays. They have in common the goal to show the subversive power of mass-produced art. I think that the differences between Radway and Benjamin are very important, as Radway’s views seem much more humanist, focused on the individual not, as Fish might do, to show how they are part of the dominant ideology, but to show how their actions, their consumption of mass-produced art comes from a need that should be addressed. Benjamin’s idea of the distracted audience did not make sense to me. “Distraction,” he argues, “as provided by art presents a covert control of the extent to which new tasks have become soluble by apperception. Since, moreover, individuals are tempted to avoid such tasks, art will tackle the most difficult and most important ones where it is able to mobilize the masses” (240). I think this quote shows the main difference in the two arguments. Benjamin’s seems focused not on the individual’s role in the consumption of mass-art, but on the art itself. It is as if the individual is not capable of action, only the art is. Strange…

  3. What really interested me about the piece is her presentation of the opposing perspectives on romance literature as either a mild form of protest or anti-feminist. I had never considered that reading such works might be viewed as a sort of separation from the traditional value system and gender roles of society which might be worth something. It’s an interesting point, and I’m glad that Radway mentioned it before analyzing romance from a more traditionally feminist perspective.

    The question of rape in romance literature was only talked about briefly, and I kind of wish she had gone into more depth. Certainly there’s the message that “ravishment” or what have you is a result of a woman being so desirable that a man can’t help himself. Therefore violence is re-conceptualized as passion. Furthermore, romance novels almost never portray “real” rape, if you will, but coercion– eventually the heroine wants it. The message this sends, both to women in terms of what to expect from sex and men, and to men in terms of how women like to be treated, scares me. Even today, I have talked to more than one educated, normal person who believed that every woman has some kind of watered down rape fantasy and wants on some level to be pushed into sexual activity. At a certain point, when you’re adding caveats like “on some level,” statements like that are impossible to prove or disprove, but… wow. As Radway said, rationalizing such behavior leads people to accept behavior that they would be much better off trying to change.

  4. I spoke about this in class, but I, too was really scared by the implications of the acceptance of rape within romance novels. Although it seems at first read that perhaps an idea that “the man simply can’t help himself” may in turn give a woman unrestrained sexual power over someone who would otherwise repress her, this sense of power is skewed and nonexistent, fooling women into accepting a dangerous idea and prolonging the overall societal acceptance of such ideas. But it is true, all of this danger comes with the dual aspect of “fooling” women into making them believe that by reading these novels or by accepting the concept of extreme desireability that they are indeed asserting their power. I don’t find any validity in this, for if they had power, the women writing these novels would find a way to exert it without simultaneously threatening it.