Romance Fiction Has a History.

From 2016-2020, I was the Manuscripts and Outreach Archivist for the Browne Popular Culture Library at Bowling Green State University. During that time, I was able to do deep dives into one of the library’s most unique aspects, its collections related to romance fiction. I know of no other collection that documents the history of this wildly popular genre so completely. It was a collection begun with great ambition in the 1990s that had fallen by the wayside because no one quite knew what to do with it.

Over the past 50 years, romance has gotten relatively little attention from academia, and much of it mirrored the derisive approach of mainstream media towards the genre. This has started to change on both counts, with the development and growth of the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR) and its journal the Journal of Popular Romance Studies (JPRS), as well as an increase in the number of journalists like Kelly Faircloth and Carly Lane-Perry who are able to approach romance as readers themselves instead of as outsiders.

While academia has begun to warm to romance, it has primarily been in the area of literary criticism, leaving publishing history and lives of authors for the most part untouched. As I spent more time with the Browne’s collections, it became clear to me that the history of the genre was an essential piece to understanding its cultural impact. So I began to dig.

As I came across interesting pieces of history or facts about the lives of romance authors, I began to share them through the library’s twitter account using the hashtag #RomanceHistory. While hashtags and twitter accounts are great, they’re also ephemeral. This blog will serve to take some of the posts and research I did using the #RomanceHistory hashtag and put them in longer form.

It’s my hope that this can serve as a jumping off point for more research into the history of romance fiction. Or maybe it’ll just make for interesting reading, that would be fine too! I’ll also try to share additional resources as I come across them. Who knows where this will end up? But let’s find out together.

Published by Steve Ammidown

I'm a mercenary archivist interested in genre fiction, physical and digital usability in archives, and telling the stories held within the records.

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