Studying Popular Romance: It Takes Two

I’m delighted to spread the word that the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance is now up and running. People interested in the study of romance in fiction, film, television, etc are invited to join the IASPR – the membership fee is $25USD for the year. The IASPR is sponsoring a conference in Brisbane in August this year, and apparently there are also plans afoot for a conference in Brussels next year.

As a new organisation, the IASPR is also seeking to raise some funds to support scholars travelling to conferences, and to assist in honorariums for keynote speakers and other similar expenses. To that end, Eric Selinger, one of the founders and a regular contributor to the blog, Teach Me Tonight, has invited people who would like to support the work of the Association to donate in the ‘It Takes Two’ campaign; in honour of your favourite romantic couple (real or fictional) donate $2 or more by clicking on the ‘Donate’ button on the IASPR website. Donations can be made by credit card through Paypal, or there’s a snail mail address on the blog link here. Eric very generously matched the first $250 of donations; I believe the fund has now raised around $700 in just a couple of days – which is great, but since international travel is expensive, it would be even better if more could be raised to assist scholars, especially young scholars, to attend conferences. There is some great research now being undertaken on the romance genre, and an academic conference in Princeton University last month generated a great deal of interest – including positive media interest.

I’ve joined the Association, and have also donated $20 in honour of one of my favourite couples, Barbie Cazabon and Jack Fascinatin’ Kippilaw from D’Arcy Niland’s classic 1957 Australian novel, Call Me When the Cross Turns Over. It’s out of print now, and not a well-known book to the current generation of readers, but it’s worth trying to find a copy in a second-hand shop. The ‘cross’ of the title is the Southern Cross, familiar constellation in the night sky for we southerners, and the book is set in the 1950s, in the gem fields and outback of New South Wales and South Australia. It’s not genre romance, and many would regard it as a Literary novel (the author also having the literary advantage of being white, male, and (sadly) deceased), but it has one of the strongest love stories in it that I have read, and both Barbie and Jack are well-drawn characters, tough as the harsh land they live in, and passionate with it. I’ve read it a dozen times or more, and can still cry in the black moments. (But be assured that the end will have you smiling, so hang in there!)

I love the opening description of Barbie:

“Her name was Barbie Cazabon, and she was brought up in a man’s world. She was dug out of this country and she’d be dug back into it. Some are like that. They belong nowhere else but in the land that bred them.”

I didn’t realise until years after I’d first read some of Niland’s books that he grew up in Glen Innes, a town in the region I now live in. Another of his books, The Shiralee, features many towns I’m familiar with – although they have changed since the 1950s. (Well, some of them have, anyway!) Australian readers may know that D’Arcy Niland was married to writer Ruth Park, and her books are definitely worth reading, too, including her autobiographies, A Fence Around the Cuckoo, and Fishing in the Styx.

I think Barbie and Jack from Call Me When the Cross Turns Over have been on my mind lately because we leave on Sunday for the outback – and will be passing through some of the places that Barbie travels through in the book – including Coober Pedy, Oodla Wirra, and Broken Hill. It’s amazing country, out there, and I love it – can’t wait to be on our way!

So, to get back to the topic of the post, if you’d like to join the association, or make a donation in honour of your favourite romantic couple to support it’s work, please do go and visit the website.

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