Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Novels vs Romances

One of my SDSU professors just told us tonight that novels will break your heart with the bitterness of the real, but might make you rich. He portrayed novels as embracing realism to unmask the ploys of the rich to keep the poor praying in the kitchen. We're reading DeFoe, Richardson, Austen, the Brontes, Virginia Woolf, and others. Nothing current, but he rasied the question, why is realism waning today, way beyond the slight shrinkage of a gibbous moon to a mere sliver of its former popularity? We've even started calling the precursor of the novel, the romance, by the same name: novel.

He talked passionately about the vampire novels/romances, wondering why readers have stopped wanting the secrets of how to escape the ploys of society and seek your own happiness. Instead they want to pursue dreams, and not their own dreams, the dreams that others foist onto them. It's as bad as craving a frog prince. No vampires out there, sorry. One student (male) suggested these novels are making young girls think stalking is romantic. Argh!

While I am not convinced that embracing rampant materialism would make people happy, or that realism is far more useful and powerful than romance, I do think this man cares deeply about his subject. I'm glad to be able to hear his thoughts for a semester.


Anonymous said...

Professors aren't often as openly critical in these days of course evaluations. You are lucky to have this teacher be open with his class. I suspect he is not the most popular prof, but you'll probably learn a lot.

Anonymous said...

So he's saying that the vampire books, Harry Potter, etc are romances rather than novels, is that it? Because they don't portray a realistic world? But I think the reason they "work" is because they portray characters who struggle with the same issues we do, so in that sense they are realistic. What does he think about that aspect?

Lorelei said...

He did talk about realism of details but not an overall realistic world with real consequences such as those we face. He does not believe you can receive the full impact on your character if you read romances/somewhat realistic fictional works that aren't rooted in our world. But he also argues that writing it down must distort reality and sieve it through the mind of the author. So he doesn't have a pure view of the difference, as far as I can see. Still, it's quite interesting to discuss and debate how to catch reality in prose.