She notes, for example, that the second section of the book will explore ‘gothic romance’, describing this as ‘a subgenre which is gaining more and more popularity today’ (x).
Further comment reveals that ‘gothic romance’ is to be understood as including ‘the Gothics and Charles Dickens’s romance of Merrie England’, as well as .
In the twentieth century, ‘popular romance’ came to be recognized as a genre of print fiction, though ‘popular romance’ in this context has a different meaning to ‘medieval popular romance’ (verse or prose fiction, usually of a chivalric or fantastical nature, written in a vernacular other than Old French).
This outline of some – though not all – of the usages and understandings of the term ‘romance’ is intended to highlight the challenges facing Percec’s project.
Surprisingly few critics have turned their attention to this challenge, and few cross-period analyses exist.
The relationship between contemporary popular romance fiction and, for instance, twelfth-century Old French verse romances has been given little critical attention and, as such, a ‘history’ of the term (or genre) of ‘romance’ has rarely been attempted.
is a collection of essays by Romanian scholars, which seek to explore the ‘genre of romance’ (viii).
It is the second book in a proposed project exploring ‘the evolution and dynamics of a number of literary genres in today’s global culture’ (viii).
Notwithstanding the lack of clarity regarding the works classed as ‘the Gothics’, and the somewhat unorthodox characterization of Dickensian fiction as ‘Merrie England’ romances (unless this is intended to evoke his Christmas tales), categorizing these texts alongside a seventeenth-century pastiche of earlier chivalric fictions results in a conflation and collapsing of categories, rather than an interrogation.
Though the book’s foreword is somewhat disappointing, the introduction that follows presents a clearer attempt to engage with the vexing questions of ‘genre’ and ‘history’. Percec begins with a quote from Valerie Parv’s (2004) noting some of the judgements and [End Page 2] condemnations heaped on (here unspecified) romance fiction and its readers (2); this is followed by a brief outline of some statistics testifying to the popularity of romance fiction in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.