Romance revived : postmodern romances and the tradition

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå universitet

Abstract: This is the first study to identify and analyse postmodern romances as a new development of the romance and to relate this late twentieth-century subgenre to its tradition. Based on a selection of works published between 1969 and 1994, by A. S. Byatt, Lindsay Clarice, Michael Dorris and Louise Erdrich, John Fowles, Iris Murdoch, Susan Sontag and Jeanette Winterson, it seeks to demonstrate how this new orientation of the romance produces meaning in dialogue with generic conventions and traditional works and, in doing so, both criticises and rehabilitates the genre.A 'postmodern romance' is a double-natured or hybrid text influenced both by inherited romance strategies and experimental postmodern techniques, such as those specified in Linda Hutcheon's study of the "poetics' of postmodernism: ambiguity, parody, paradox, contradiction and self-reflexivity. Hutcheon's theories, as well as theories of the romance, of intertextuality, of feminism, of New Historicism and of popular culture provide the theoretical framework for my argument.Intertextuality is an important manifestation of literary postmodernism, and I isolate three kinds of intertextual relationships which 1 see as characteristic of postmodern romances. Taking as its starting point Julia Kristeva's view that intertextuality includes social, political and cultural, as well as literary, contexts, 1 argue that feminist ideologies appear as cultural intertexts in postmodern romances, thereby challenging the association between the romance genre and a patriarchal world-view. The connections between postmodern and chivalric, historical and women's popular romances are instances of generic intertextuality, where particularly postmodern literary strategies are fused with more conventional attributes of the romance. The links between the postmodern works and the various subgenres of romance affect both the former and the latter, making the postmodern texts accessible to a larger audience, but also revealing forgotten or overlooked complexities in earlier examples of the romance. The return to individual texts is an instance of specific intertextuality, where postmodern romances reinterpret and rewrite particular, earlier romances. Since the relationship between the texts involved is dialogic and, hence, unpredictable, the modern works are also reinterpreted by their intertexts.Postmodern romances transcend the boundaries between real and unreal, male and female, "high" and "low" literature, and in the process they show that this might be equally characteristic of traditional romances. As a result of the fusion of postmodern and romantic literary modes, the inherent duality of the romance genre as such is brought to the fore at the same time as the genre is revived.

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