From its beginnings in Twilight fan-fiction to its record-breaking sales as an e-book and paperback, the story of the erotic romance novel Fifty Shades of Grey and its two sequels is both unusual and fascinating. Having sold over seventy million copies worldwide since 2011, E. L. James’s lurid series about a sexual ingénue and the powerful young entrepreneur who introduces her to BDSM sex has ingrained itself in our collective consciousness. But why have these particular novels—poorly written and formulaic as they are—become so popular, especially among women over thirty?
In this concise, engaging book, Eva Illouz subjects the Fifty Shades cultural phenomenon to the serious scrutiny it has been begging for. After placing the trilogy in the context of best-seller publishing, she delves into its remarkable appeal, seeking to understand the intense reading pleasure it provides and how that resonates with the structure of relationships between men and women today. Fifty Shades, Illouz argues, is a gothic romance adapted to modern times in which sexuality is both a source of division between men and women and a site to orchestrate their reconciliation. As for the novels’ notorious depictions of bondage, discipline, and sadomasochism, Illouz shows that these are as much a cultural fantasy as a sexual one, serving as a guide to a happier romantic life. The Fifty Shades trilogy merges romantic fantasy with self-help guide—two of the most popular genres for female readers.
Offering a provocative explanation for the success and popularity of the Fifty Shades of Grey novels, Hard-Core Romance is an insightful look at modern relationships and contemporary women’s literature.
It is often claimed that we know ourselves and the world through narratives. In this book, Robert D. Newman portrays narrative engagement as a process grounded in psychoanalytic theory to explain how readers (or listeners or viewers) manage to engage with specific narratives and derive from them a personal experience. Newman describes this psychodrama of narrative engagement as that of exile and return, an experience in which narrative becomes a type of homeland, beckoning and elusive, endlessly defining and disrupting the borders of a reader's identity. Within this paradigm, he considers a fascinating variety of narrative texts: from the Jim Jones episode in Guyana to Freud's repression of personal history in his story of Moses; from a surrealistic collage novel by Max Ernst to the horror films of Alfred Hitchcock; from the works of James Joyce, Ariel Dorfman, Milan Kundera, and D. M. Thomas to the tales of abjection in pornography. Transgressions of Reading is itself an engaging work, as interesting for its provocative readings of particular works as for its theoretical insights. It will appeal to readers from all fields in which narrative plays a crucial role, in the study of film and art, modern and contemporary literature, popular culture, and feminist, psychoanalytic, and reader response theory.