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robin_anne_reid ([personal profile] robin_anne_reid) wrote2013-03-30 05:47 pm

Session Reports from the Popular Culture Association Conference

I've been taking note at the sessions I attended at this year's Popular Culture Conference.

As before, with my MLA notes, these are my rough notes, just basically proofed, and my sense of what I heard. They cannot be considered authoritative/checked/edited/reviewed by speaker!

This conference was incredibly fantastic--the variety, scope, and sophistication of the presentations in the Fan Culture and Theory area was dazzling, and the other areas I managed to catch a session or two in were equally good.

This was a session cosponsored by the Romance Studies and Fan Studies area on the ethics of scholarship in fan and romance studies.

Uneasy Pleasures: Ethics of Romance Studies/Fan Studies Scholarship

Introduction: Heather Schell

Assorted difficulties with ethnical issues involved in conducting research which has to do with the creations of and interactions of people who are alive and paying attention to what I as a scholar am writing. It changes the dynamic a little bit. I was in the delightful position of having a wish list of people whose perspective on this I wanted to hear, and they all agreed. Catherine Roach, scholar in romance studies, working in particularly with idea of aca-fandom; Laurie Kohn documentary film maker who is also creation and support with NEH grant called popular romance project which among other things is creating a shared space for romance writers and scholars, and readers, ROMANCE PROJEC. And then Catherine Larsen, are chair of fan studies, and really a very important figurehead who has done a tremendous amount of work in the past years to advance the field of fan studies, and is possibly the most tireless scholar I've ever met. It's impossible to go into our suite at any time when I'm awake and not find her in there working.

Catherine Roach: "Romancing the Academic: Blending the Fictional and Analytical Genres of popular Romance Writing by Catherine LaRoach and Catherine Roach"


Warning: my talk contains a scene of explicit sexuality, go get a coffee. My larger research interests are in representations of female sexuality within fantasy spaces in pop culture. This paper's not meant to be really serious. I hope you laugh. You can cheer, jeer, and go ahead. I'm trying to be serious but in a non-serious way about an experimental approach to academic research and writing. Deliberately goofy aspect, performance, humor, and poking fun at myself, at academic conventions of sober academic analysis, and insider/outsider split, that can make conversation against academic fan divide problematic.

What I'm doing here is writing an academic book about the function of romance narrative in popular culture. Find one true love and live happily ever after. I'm also writing genre romance fiction, from inside and outside simultaneously. Deep participating observation, or observer participation, performativity ethnography, aca fan studies. Bringing fan and academic communities together—it's just fun.

Write in different ways.

So I propose that this pleasure is serious and seriously seductive stuff, so elsewhere I introduce germ ludic researcher, ludic reader, one who engages in research for play or pleasure. Not being theoretical. Demonstrate this play instead, and do something goofy.

I think this is how theatre people workshop a script. Two hands talking. I'm not sure about that and just going to do it.

Catherine Roach right hand nerdy romance studies academic asking critical questions about the genre.

Left hand Catherine LA Roach writes Victorian historical romance fiction, on second e book with Simon and Schuster. And she'll respond to these questions and critiques. Creative side, less traditional side. She's got the bangles on, rings, with a manicure. None of the above.

She's prettier, can you tell. She wears sparkly velvet gowns, and Roach doesn't get sparkly velvet.

Talk and debate, LaRoach is going to read some of her romance ficction. Add in another voice later of romance author I met at a conference, neutral omniscient narrator, with open hands.

FOUR people.

It's a little complicated. But it's an experiment.

ACA (academic): Catherine Roach

ROM: (romance novel writer) Catherine LaRoach



ACA: Virgin trope. Your heroine the honorable Miss Callista Higginbotham is an inexperienced virgin seduced by hero. Why is genre awash with passive virgins? Master of Love. Consent and mutuality.

ROM: SIGH must you be so tendentious and one sided. Lots of romances where romance is egalitarian. To drive a plot needs disequilibrium. Obvious starting point.

ACA: Seduction motif such a trap. Sunk many a girl. Why so lovey dove.

ROM Wow, you're on a roll, you nerdy academic types think steamrolling others is the way to go.

ACA: Read from your scene.


ACA: He's seducing her but really she's seducing herself with fantasy of romance narrative, not happily ever after. Dump her.

ROM: Or she could dump hi, neither of which would make for a romance novel.

ACA: Genre tells its women readers not only that they want this bad boy seductive narrative but they need it. Woman studied crying, had broken up. I asked if she was really such a great guy, I don't know, but we were gonna move in and get married. MY LIFE IS OVER> Upset was about moving one true love.

ROM: oh the poor girl. I agree entirely that the romance narrative becomes an imperative in the culture especially for women. It shouldn't be an imperative, man doesn't need woman, or woman need man.

ACA: You agree with criticism of genre.

ROM: NO, I don't agree. We're looking at this from different angles. Emotional satisfaction essential to genre fiction, romance and mystery. Life doesn't always end with happy resolution. You'd have to critique a wider human desire for resolution.

ACA: I don't think you're answering my question.

ROM: that's because you seduced me into talking your language. Love can be a trap. The one you love will always fail, and you'll screw it up yourself. Because who truly knows their own heart. It's the first noble truth of Buddhism, all is suffering imperfectly fulfilled disaster. So it's heartbreaking.

Life and love are a timebomb waiting to blow up in your face.

ACA: who you're even more grim about love than I am.

ROM: I'm happily I love and married.

ACA: I'm married to him to.

ROM: safe space to explore connection, love entails great vulnerability. Genre not for everyone. I do think women enjoy romance fiction than men do, and the stakes are higher, and many appreciate the space to work out problems in a patriarchal world. That's one reason why the ending where it all works out is such a sweet fantasy of life.

ACA: I'm going to have to think about all that. Ending in terms of novel.

ROM: I wrote last scene deliberated to show equality in their love play, there's a reversal at the end.

ACA: Reviewer said love scenes are pushing boundaries to good taste.

ROM: I laughed out loud in my office when I read that. Last chapter,, should always feature anal play. It's the end.

ACA: rolling my eyes. Why not read the place.

ROM: Acknowledge hot fan fic about MIAMI VICE. Back to Rockwell Red.

ACA: Well, so is this the new height of feminist liberation, anal penetration of man. This is pornography.

ROM: why not, she takes charge, AND SHE'S NO LONGER PASSIVE.

ACA: Push your boundaries of shameless hussy.

ROM: Politics take something down. I like being

OMNISCIENT NARRATOR: Published author at conference, uneasy about it. New voice coming in.

NO HAND VOICE: I was very offended by your presentation, I want to read a novel written by someone who has poured her heart into it. Not as experiment.

NARR: Insider uneasiness arises from outside attention. ROM: read romances all life, I love the genre, although I do think about it critically in many ways. MASTER OF LIE and INIGHT OF LOVE

UNEASY: You needed an excuse to write a romance. You are treading on sacred ground. Researcher and romance writer.

ACA: It's not Catherine, it's me, m any academics write …insider/outsider issue. The concern is with a type of border patrol. Insiders legitimately don't want academic outsider criticizing their genre based in false or incomplete understandings of their novel.

Insider could read my work as blasphemy, spying, etc. So the question then is who gets to speak for and about the romance genre, narrative. INSIDER: FAN AUTHOR or OUTSIDER academic cultural commentator. Which of them is the more authoritative writer. We're both voices of the heart engaging joyfully in and with the romance genre.

ROM: you're going to make me cry it's so beautiful. I sense a happy after ending.

NARR: conclusion back in critical and theoretical mode, and I've used up my time, so I'm dubious about theoretical modes. Fracture lines of anxiety.

My own uneasiness and anxieties, how not to offend my fellow romance writers by coming off as a spy; how not to lose respect of fellow romance academics, not doing enough work for merging field, I'm more about pleasure than anxiety how to understand creative and fruitful possibilities of ludic research, wholehearted engagement of self. ROACH and LAROACH coming me together and leading more forward to another model. Thank you

Laurie Kahn

"Ethics, Romance and Documentary Filmmaking: the importance of building trust and the folly of fixed perceptions"


DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER ROMANCE PROJECT. I'm actually not going to show images today. I realized of taking on the task of introducing the dilemmas we face as documentary film makers, if I were to use a lot of illustrations, I'd be here as thee hours. Just raise some questions we can all explore.

Questions I'm facing at the moment which has something to do.

My aim is to immerse viewers into world they do not know, to introduce them to remarkable characters and worlds that have been ignored or hidden or misrepresented by the mainstream media. Tell stories that matter, keep being attracted to stories about overlooked female communities, but have gender, race and class as well. So as a film maker, I'm a nonfiction story teller. I'm not writing articles. I'm a storyteller, and I think about these stories in classic three structured films:

Cards that are color coded by events and characters, and I spread them on floor, rearranging and talking about space of narratives.

The key thing at every stage or production, there are thousands of choices that have to be made, and the decisions all shape what audience thinks and perceives. Doing the research, reading, finding archival footage, the music the photos the documents, choosing which characters you will focus on, what events will you shoot and how.

Editing hundreds of hours into a film of an hour or two. Hundreds of choices.

ETHICAL CHOICES INVOLVED AT EVERY STEP. Truthfulness and distortion of the truth in ways that you might realize, or might not realize. Seeming little decisions that can make a really big difference, often key difference in how an audience will perceive the story being told. If you shoot someone from below it makes them look menacing, from above, it's condescending, I have my eye right next to the lens of the camera, at same level of eye of person I'm interviewing to make respectful conversation among equals. Lighting makes a big difference: golden glow around someone, makes them look angelic, you look them in film noirish, it menacing, and it's scary. Something is going on. Choice of archival photos and footage: it's not real but people think it is. Ken Burns did film about Huey Long, knew Long had bodyguards all the time. Not dramatic enough for Ken—he finds state troopers with big black jackboots and puts in the film—that choice will be repeated over and over again, by everybody: this is the way people are going to think it was. I might be a purist—but that's wrong.

Sometimes I think these mistakes get made because people don't have time, it's ignorant, haven't done research, or made editorial choice.

Sound effects—seems trivial—sound of bird vs. gunfire. You've completely change the meaning of the scene. MSUIC.

When I'm teaching I showed that scene from ROCKY running up steps and I show it with the triumphant music, and then I show it with really menacing music, escaping in spy film. Same footage, different music.

Let's pull back from details:

Big picture:

Responsibilities to subjects of film, people who trusted her with stories.

Responsibility to larger community these people are part of who expect their community are going to be portrayed fairly. Don't always agree.

Responsibility to viewers to tell what I believe is the truth to them, as well researched and thought through.

I have responsibilities to funders to live within budget, and make a film audience will want to watch—entertaining and educational.

Responsibilities often conflict with one another.

Aim to be respectful but honest.

Aim to be transparent and open-minded and not wedded to preconceived ideas.

Make my best judgment of what I'm seeing and to figure it out.

Some of choices facing on this film LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS

Preview of the film part of a kickstarted campaign.

Part of this much larger popular romance project, documentary website, symposium at the Library of Congress, and a library Program at the American Library Association.

How am I weighing my responsibilities to subject, community, audience, funders.

I don't have the answer—so leaving them open.

In a film, you can only get to know five or six characters well, there will be chorus of other characters, but we've only got time to know a few.

These people who I choose are the ones I will spend the money to go shoot living their lives with their families in their communities, which five or six I choose will have a big impact on how they'll understand the romance community.

And there are different approaches to making a character based film—decide story ahead of time and find the tones that allow you tell the story, spend a time, edit.

That's how a recent film was made about the romance community GUILTY PLEASURES.

But the one author was profiled was a man, and the readers were all isolated, seen alone or just with their spouse or partner, not with a larger community, all were desperately seeking connection and excitement in their lives. Real lives vs. fantasies.

I started this film with zero preconceived ideas, not a major fan, did read some. Process taking much more time what I see, have discovered, is so different from well work stereotypes of lonely woman. Global romance community, write and read and blog and design. Bug Business making billions based on these old archetypical stories, yet these folks are pioneers in social networking e books, self-publishing, keeping publishing houses alive that have romance branches.

Relationships that start online with shared love of books and become read. All the different communities.

Intrigued by assumption that's common in the romance community that all romance readers are potential authors—really fascinates me, and the way it plays out in the larger romance community.

I finally got NEH production money, believable, ROMANCE.

I've got now money to go out and shoot not just masses of interviews at a conference but to go out and shoot characters to people .

Video cameras to aspiring writers, one in Australia. Given video cameras to woman who quit her job as engineer, single, broke up, she rockclimbs, she bikeraces, she's gorgeous, she broke up with him and what will happen, and she hasn't been published she's gotten close, and she's spent years writing this novel, and if she gets a three book contract, this woman will be in trouble. We'll see how it all plays out.

Video camera north of Yorkshire who has a farm they built together, sheet, and horses, and she's raises dogs, and goes out on the hunt, working class, six kids and four grandkids.

Video diary camera in Mumbai, India who has just published one book, she's a banker.

Working with video diary cameras, camera keepers, giving them feedback. Headed out into field to shoot other main characters living their lives. Interviews with more than fifty people. Shot more than usual filmmaker because I had a website to feed.

These fifty people have trusted me they all want to be in the film, well known aspiring, how do I represent this whole community. What is implied, what will I be saying, different combinations of different characters, combinations. Age, class, region, sub-genre, attitudes, family situation, sexual, race.

What do I owe the community to get that picture correctly. This is causing me great pain.

As a film maker, I need telegenic character people will want to watch, energy levels, different visual elements, circumstances, and compelling character arcs. That is a very big question.

Another big question: to what extent am I going to protect characters, they're beginning careers, vulnerable, not fully aware of how they will be seen with characters, if material puts them at risk, do I explain, do I get them to buy. Million moral decisions ahead of me. Will I show film to characters before it's released: you don't show, but there's a different level of trust, long form long term with people you know over years.

They will not get veto power.

Will I show people that plays into stereotypes (laugh at them vs. laugh with them). Do I censor what is real to save from mockery.

Some of subjects are savvy and aware of how they're perceived—they were really wary, the decision went to top, senior executives realized it's in their self-interest, ore people temped to do self-publishing, to show people how much value they add. I need time to script everybody.

Needs to choose what seems real and what doesn't.

Answers to funders and broadcaster: HBO and PBS want different films. Kickstarter money from the community. Responsible to community.

LITMUS TEST is when people talk about film the next day over machine. I had no idea X Y A and they're left thinking.

Professors use in courses.

Heather Schell "Say it to my Face: Ethics, Etiquette and Romance Scholarship"

Fan vs. popular romance scholars.

Keynote address to international association for popular study of romance: what do critics owe the romance.

What do critics owe the romance author.

Just as romance authors provide the subjects of our analysis. Novelists are active and influential members of our area.

Romance writers relationship with romance authors –sometimes one and same. What are our responsibilities toward these novelists, what do we owe them.

Romance writers THEY


Problematic, but multiple hats.

This question of standards of conduct relates to ethics or etiquette.

Codes of behavior

What romance critics say and do has an effect on romance novelists has a reciprocal effect on critics. Unfortunately in history of romance scholarship.

Review: handful of romance scholar from 70s-80s (usual suspects) unwittingly fermented a deep distrust and distain in writing community for feminist and political scholars. Wariness still lingers decades later. Today's popular romance scholars conscious of this is cautionary tale—interpretive failings of usual suspect-these scholars errors were as much about ethics and etiquette as they were about theory.

Ethical breaches: etiquette

Subjects of our writing, community of romance writers and readers. Must move questions into the open. And reach some consensus if we are to move forward effectively as a field.

Standards of ethics and etiquette: romance writers have developed a very clear standard of community etiquette. "Must be nice"

Critiquing another writer or author is not being nice.

Romance scholars might be tempted to abide by code.

Not good default decision: scholarly community has expectations.

Let me be perfectly clear: I don't believe our scholarship is skewed, I want to ensure that scholarship is skewed, but professional colleagues need to know this.

Open the discussion on some starting points: professional ethics in fandom studies.

Professional concerns overlap in interesting ways, and they've already initiated the discussion about ethics.

Test them against the usual suspects.

Snitow, Modleski, Janice Radway, Mussell

Test of guidelines have been simple: would their early writing have passed their guidelines.

Easiest starting point: use of published work

Literature background, MLA, responsibly acknowledging one's sources. MLA statement of ethics, a scholar who borrows the works and ideas should acknowledge whether or not it is published.

Not an adequate safeguard from causing harm: earlier scholarship perceived as an offensive assault. Kathy Sidell notes feminist criticism of romances know what is right for other women, and oh my do they feel the us/them distinction acutely.

Many of today's romance scholars are equally dissatisfied with the scholarship of this era: MLA standards were followed, they cited, they attributed, therefore, we need to look further for guidance.

Prominent arbiter of ethics: Institutional Review Board whose approval is required for research on human subjects. Ethical ramifications situated at the IRB—as if it's the expert. Ethical guidelines steer biomedical and behavioral research in US to avoid abuses.

Much controversy over university IRBs have claimed increasingly large jurisdiction over research in all disciplines.

What do guidelines have to offer us: research based fully on published sources is exempt.

Tricky wiggle room with fan studies but not with romance studies.
Policy and protection of human research subjects would not avert outrage caused by the earlier scholars. Janice Radway ethnographic approach might need IRB review—but it was her interpretation that caused offense.


Share some of same issues that complicate fan romance. Fans characterized negatively by popular media; many fans of science fiction and horror can testify to the negative representations of reading habits. Scholars of fandom may feel content pressure to defend choice of field or disavow personal interest.

Voracious readers who will track down material relevant to community, read it, and communicate with the scholars.

Kathy's recent collection ETHICS

ACA FANDOM: Aca fans come out of the closet. Outing oneself in this way signals to audience of potential fan readers, not approaching readers as outsiders, but as someone who sees herself as a member of the group she is studying, "eyes that are clear but loving". This approach can be limiting, it's possible that scholars having breezily self-identified as aca fan may feel their ethical concerns are resolved. NOT TRUE.

Using this as a standard may enforce the notion that one has to be an avid fan to study X. Not a good analogy for romance.

While fandom studies may have reached a point where acafandom does not suffice; it might be useful for romance studies to accept responsibility to accept key questions about our personal relationship with popular romance. Responses to Modleski's LOVING WITH VENGEANGE might be more nuanced if she had acknowledge a long time readership.

Potential readers extend beyond other academics. Even truer today with the internet.

Organizations all over the internet encouraging cross pollination of collaboration and interaction.

Positioning oneself as a fan could work because it pays attention to the multi-faceted audience with whom we are writing.

Studies of academic rhetoric have adopted metaphor of conversation that occurs in scholarship.

Literature based on dead authors.

Cultural studies Marxist approach ignores "authors"

Titles of works cited in usual suspects, not authors.

If we write while consciously imagining the authors we're discussing might read our work; this awareness will transform our writing unless we are sociopaths, but we might get writers block. This technique will keep us honest, but disagreement can lead to constructive debate.

Katherine Larsen "Ethics Expectations and 'Problem' of Aca-Fan"

Gone back and forth over last several days with the conclusion—sometimes it's one thing, sometimes it's the diametrically opposed one, so I may wake up tomorrow morning and scream.

Commit what may account by heresy.

Within fan studies, the concept of ethical research by unspoken expectation that those of us conducting the research must be fans in order to speak for or theorize fans, makes lines for ethics difficult. Matt Hills, Buses, Helleksen, written recently offering problems and solutions.

Some problems citation problem.

Hills gave us aca fan.

Researchers own relation to material.

Issue is one of boundary negotiation.


This paper then seems to consider three variations of thinking about usefulness and limits of thinking about this

As illustrative of one of the more divisive problems.

PRACTICAL: Busse and Helleksen Identity Ethics and Fan privacy: many of us come to fan studies with widely varying citation conventions many come to humanities, trained to see text as text. As opposed to social science traditions. Make the case for treating fans and fan works differently than other texts because of privacy expectations.

Disagree: expectations about privacy on internet has been pretty much shot down.

Nature of content and venue begs for different treatment: sexual nature, explore themes that are disturbing pornographic. Fans ought to be treated differently .

Claim is based on supposition that they are revealing real name instead of pseud. Never seen indication of academic outing fan.

TWC: Busse and Helleksen developed citation policies and muddying distinctions between fan and academic.

Issues of language, us and them, choices that we have to make if you're speaking you have to position yourself.

MATT HILLS: now acknowledging fans, but our own approaches to the field. Distance and ethical consideration Roger Silverstone) to reconsider issues of identity and positioning to reconsider ideas he did in FAN CULTURES.

Two unsatisfactory stances: too close or too far.

CLOSE: scholar fandom lacks critical distance, too in love, seen as corrective to earlier works. Never leveled at Shakespeare scholar!

Hill's goes beyond the typical too close argument to point to another difficulty: meditating our own fan experience while ignoring other modes of fan activity—gaps in research yet to be filled. Fan fiction growing, fan viding, fan producer relationship, however precious little work done on Coplay, fan crafts, fan art, and meta And it's worth noting here that an archive of our own has recently allowed meta in which raises all sorts of other issues and I had to jettison.

Certain texts are foregrounds in fan studies. To the point where they have become canon overshadowing less well known fan communities.

On to the too far argument: here scholars of other disciplines enter field of fan studies bringing own conventions to them. Psychologist sociologists, early modernists, enter field well trained in their home disciplines, lacking media training.

Too far: potentially failing to attain proper distance and fail to STUDY THE AVAILABLE SCHOLARSHIP.

Autodidacts fan knowledge where it is not deemed important to cite scholarship.
HILLS: proper distance difficulty negotiation of fannish moral economy---fannish privileges and polices others practices, varies from fandom to fandom and community to community.

Balancing this must be a simple acknowledgement of one's own academic and disciplinary specific moral economy.

Gaze is meant to be two way: analysis vs. emotion.

His own previous work has missed the mark.

OTW allows Meta on fiction archive.


(ran out of time, had to close down, after brief discussion of own situation as academic, and as fan).

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