Reading the Romance. Women, Piz~n’archy, a d Popular Lzterature. J A N I C E A.. R A D W A Y. With a Nav Intmductwn by the Author fiQ1). The University of. Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature [Janice A. Radway] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Originally. Women Read the Romance: The Interaction of Text and Context. Author(s): Janice A. Radway. Reviewed work(s). Source: Feminist Studies, Vol. 9, No.

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Rmance of the Smithton women identified certain romances as undesirable or inferior to others. It is for this reason that readers feel betrayed or let down when a romance does not live up to the story promised on its cover or contains material with which the yare personally uncomfortable.

This too would explain why so many of the readers admitted to reading the last page first – they wanted to be sure that the story upheld its bargain in upkeeping the valorous or mythic elements they romqnce used to.

Radway suggests that these romances are often depressing or less jannice than others or may contain degrading sexual scenes, and that women may see the rejection of such stories as a form of “safe protest against certain kinds of patriarchal treatment of women” that would not jeopardize their social relationships.

Reqding concludes by encouraging feminists to look more deeply at the causes and outcomes of romance consumption among the female audience while also examining how the romance gratifies needs and desires that are created by contemporary society.

The style, Radway points out, is relatively simplistic. In summary, the Smithton women more greatly valued stories in which heroines essentially claim happiness and “integrity” by getting a commitment from their heroes, reaffirming gender roles while also underscoring female power and agency p.

Moreover, by instituting real-world concepts and places into the stories, they create a sense of reality that blurs the lines between what is fantasy and what is not, leading readers to adapt what is seen in the novels to their everyday lives.

Moreover, Radway suggests that the rejection of some forms of romance books and the perceived degradation of women within them suggests that assuming all female readers read all romance novels is disingenuous. Women also often feel uncomfortable spending money on the romance novels though they recognize that their janicee and family members spend money on their interests; the subject matter and imagery on the covers may also create what the readers feel are false impressions that they are reading the books for sexual gratification.

In terms of methodology, Radway suggests that analyzing reading as a specific activity undertaken by actual people will provide a distinction between the act of reading itself and that which is being read; moreover, the act of reading alone may have different connotations depending on the context. Moreover, the Smithton women were more likely to recall the events that happened in a story as opposed to the characters’ names p.

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Evans defends her customers’ choice of entertainment; reading romances, she tells Radway, is no more harmful than watching sports on television. We know from the article that Dot was extremely bright and articulate. In general, if readers cannot identify with a character or see them as someone to live vicariously through they are less likely to enjoy the romance.

Radway notices that the women make assumptions about authorial intent when it comes to the words written within the book, believing that the author chooses words that mean what they say they mean; as a result they are not skeptical about the words chosen or what they may represent or the significance that the author themselves assigns to a word as a signifier. Radway summarizes the history of romance novel publishing in the United States, concluding that economic demands dictated a system in which ideal audiences for novels were selected ahead of time rather than engage in complex and expensive advertising.


Note the position of the female and the prominence and power of the male figure. However, Radway points out that despite their varying backgrounds, the romance does not ultimately give women a choice of how to pursue or identify with particular female role models because society has already socialized them into patriarchal settings. Radway conducted interviews with a group of women who regularly read and enjoyed romance novels to discover that women seek out romance novels for a variety of purposes, including the idealization of heterosexual romance and the ability to rebel against their status in life, though such novels continue to reinforce patriarchal and heteronormative ideals.

The way that the stories are written also has a significant impact on the creation of identity and the construction of meaning; Radway points out that “repetitive use of the same, limited vocabulary” leads to faster reader comprehension and also facilitates the reader to make quick sense of other entrants into the romance genre by creating frames the reader can then apply to those stories.

Citing the works of Terry EagletonRadway points out that texts have an effect on the reader and that the process is not limited to simply a denotative context; Storey makes a similar observation in his book.

However, such feelings are not necessarily positive, as Radway contends that “the vicarious pleasure offered by romantic fictional finally may be satisfying enough to forestall the need for more substantial change in the reader’s life” p. In this way the observer becomes important: However, women may often feel guilt over their reading.

Reading The Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature

Regardless, by engaging in the reading of romances women nonetheless engage in subversive activity, though it is activity that is legitimated by societal and patriarchal values.

Retrieved from ” http: Radway invokes elements of the superwoman myth by suggesting that women are expected to not only uphold familial and homemaking duties but to do so without a significant amount of “reproduction” or support; women, by comparison, offer these services to men p. Effectively, the relationship is cyclical. Radway questions such claims, arguing that critical attention “must shift from the text itself, taken in isolation, to the complex social event of reading.

Publishers set out to create lines of novels that were known quantities among these groups, controlling the production tue creating a set formula that was facilitated by new binding and production technologies allowing for more books to be published faster. Similar to Joseph Campbell ‘s understanding of the classic myths and the “hero’s journey’, it is not so much what happens as how it happens; these thr provide familiarity and comfort to the audience.

Reading the Romance – Wikipedia

Because the romance portrays the successful outcome of a heroine’s union as the result of persoal choice or in some cases luckit negates the influence of “social and political institutions” on the role a woman plays in society and what is expected of her p. Radway argues nonetheless that the romance has provided a space in which men and women alike can examine and re-examien their “ideal personalities” and provided an way to bring at least some less threatening challenges to patriarchy together in a system that is supported by and facilitates the patriarchy p.


The women preferred stories with strong male leads, which also reaffirmed traditional gender roles of male strength; at the same time, however, the men were not prized for their individual characteristics but rather for their role in relation to the heroine. In fact, women read romances both to protest and to escape temporarily the narrowly defined role prescribed for them by a patriarchal culture.

Radway explains this further with this excerpt:. Nagaranij10g8 M March 27, at 7: Romance reading, in Radway’s view, allows the reader to obtain “emotional sustenance” without threatening the power relationship in their marriage relationship.

The goal with these lines was to reduce uncertainty and increase the predictability of sales without having to find a new audience for each book – if women knew what to expect from the line of novels, they would know what to expect from the new one.

It is this complex relationship between culture, text, and woman reader that Radway urges feminists to address. However, Radway contends that this does not get to the root of social problems because it allows them simply to address legitimate concerns through a socially accepted and “culturally devalued” space that is still permissible under the patriarchal view p. Radway puts the onus for these feelings of guilt on a society which prizes work more highly than it prizes recreation, as well as a society that both champions female sexuality as a selling point while still being cautious or restrictive about it in any other context.

According to Radway, while romances begin in a place of self-actualization and champion individualism in women, they are written by women who have been socialized into a patriarchal standard in which they must be mothering; therefore, the romance does not necessarily declare that individualism is without worth but it rather champions a form of female identity “demanded by patriarchal parenting arrangements” p.

Turning her attention to which characteristics are possessed by a so-called “ideal romance”, Radway’s research into the texts recommended to her by the readers manice up the notion first that the romances in these stories are generally between one man and one woman, with a distinct lack of rivals for romantic affection; many of them marry the hero and heroine off early in the book.

Reading is not a self-conscious, productive process in which they collaborate with the author, but an act of discovery during which they glean from her information about people, places, raway events not themselves in the book. Again, women use the books as a subversive influence or source of protest without fully understanding that these books are radwway firmly within the patriarchy.

In romances the women find not only escape from the demanding and often tiresome routines of their lives but also a hero who supplies the tenderness and admiring attention that they have learned not to expect.

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As the women read the romance which provides them with the ideas and relationships they crave they reinforce existing patriarchal standards which in turn uphold those relationships as valid and important. The romance teaches women how to live in a patriarchal society and “displays the remarkable benefits of conformity” p. Continued jamice to these messages also has more direct impacts on the reader.