Academics Read Romance, or DUH

[Cross-posted with additions from Speaker’s Corner in the ATX]

Two people on my Facebook feed today posted the link to this amazing Tumblr where grad students in English admit the things for which they have shame: English Grad Student Shaming.

After I tweeted this link out, I got this response:

The image in the post Alexandra links to is this:

Woman holding up a piece of paper in front of her face that reads: "Number of times I've read Wuthering Heights = 0. Number of historical romances I read during the dissertation process = 63 and counting...)"

“Number of times I’ve read Wuthering Heights = 0. Number of historical romances I read during the dissertation process = 63 and counting…”

I think my number is probably much higher than that. In total, for ALL romance novels, it’s creeping toward 200, I think. And my dissertation remains incomplete

If ever there is a History Grad Student Shaming Tumblr, I’ll have to submit that as my entry.


This makes me think of something I mentioned briefly on the podcast I did last week with Jaclyn Friedman. When I finally started to admit loudly and proudly that I read romance novels by the dozens, I was surprised how many academics in my life wrote me or told me in person that they, too, read them all the time. It’s like this big (open) secret among academic women. Something like 40% of all US women read at least one romance novel a year. I think my own stereotyping of the genre as silly or frivolous (before I started reading them) made me assume that seriously smart women and women who are invested in appearing seriously smart would never read those books. I was wrong in every way about that.

Photo on 2013-03-25 at 11.27

Me, “reading” Judith Butler while really reading Miranda Neville.

And whenever I think on this particular topic, I always think of Katharine Ashe. She is a professor of European history who writes historical romances (a few of which are on “my favorite romance novels” list). And one day – ONE DAY – I will write a comprehensive post about her use of the Caribbean in her work. Because she uses it a lot. As a historian of the Caribbean, I get excited each and every time.

Well, after reading the acknowledgments of one of her books, I figured out that not only is she a professor, but she is married to Laurent Dubois, one of the premier Caribbean historians working today. The brain power of that family…

From Katharine Ashe’s website:

By the time I graduated from Duke University with my bachelor’s degree, I had a yen to teach. About then I delved into another writing project: a novel about a young English teacher learning a breathtaking new language in the arms of her soccer-coach colleague.

A decade or so later I found myself finishing up a PhD in History. While allegedly taking notes on ancient texts in the Vatican Library, I furtively filled my laptop with steamy chapters about a heretic priestess and the inquisitor-knight to whom she burns to surrender.

Eventually, I got the picture. I love romance—the high adventure, pure emotion, and rich sensuality of a hero and heroine’s journey together. Whatever else I’m doing, I simply must write romance.

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2 thoughts on “Academics Read Romance, or DUH

  1. Thank you for showing that we are not alone in our shame. Also if you ever find a history student shaming, sign me up.

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