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« This Week's Acquisitions | Main | GREat (or not) »

March 12, 2006


Don Napoli

From what I can tell from skipping around the book at Amazon, Regis derives her generalizations about romance novels from Pride and Prejudice and her other exemplary texts. The twentieth-century books merely provide illustrations. So the sample size doesn’t affect her argument. If she were using the samples to prove something, she’d need way more than thirty.


Is the problem perhaps picking too large a field? No one would analyze "American Literature" based on a sample that size. "Romance" narrows it down some, but not much. There are formulas for some romance (Harlequin helpfully posts their rules on their website), so perhaps they ought to constitute their own type, distinct from mass-market paperbacks and hardbacks. Read three Harlequin Silhouettes, and you probably do have an adequate sample of that line.

The monthly lines and authors are self-consciously niched into "black," "Christian," "sci-fi," or "chick lit" genres. The more interesting work tends to be not slotted into these categories so neatly, by authors who have established themselves, in romance or elsewhere. If you want to include all of these subgenres, you're going to have to open up the field considerably to where 37 romances is a paltry number.


The problem more acute if you aren't just looking for typical examples but also for the best--which by definition are not likely to be typical. As a critic who is not an academic that is almost always what I'm looking for when I explore a genre---and the fact that the form has produced excellent works is what justifies the exploration in the first place. Otherwise the endevour would be, as they say, academic.

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