Professor Catherine Roach - Happily Ever After: Gender and Romance Narratives in Popular Culture

In this seminar Professor Catherine Roach tries to unravel the “conundrum of erotic love” in terms of notions of freedom and bondage.


In this interactive talk, I present a chapter from my forthcoming book Happily Ever After: The Romance Narrative in Popular Culture.  This romance narrative is perhaps the most powerful and omnipresent narrative in modern Western culture and functions, indeed, as an imperative for how to live the good life: Find your one true love and live happily ever after.  I introduce the parameters of my project as a performative ethnography in which I write, as an academic, about how this romance narrative functions while I also write, as a delighted newbie novelist, works of mainstream romantic fiction.

For this seminar, I try to unravel the “conundrum of erotic love” in terms of notions of freedom and bondage.  I examine this conundrum in high art literature but focus particularly on the top-publishing genre of popular romantic fiction.  The African-American romance novel Indigo provides a framework for this discussion: Can you become a slave for love?  What makes romance empowering, feminist, and freeing?  What does it mean for a man to be “pussy-whipped” by love?  How do today’s romantic novels constitute a massive cultural fantasy space—largely gendered—for the exploration of these questions?