The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Romantic fiction

This article refers to the wide variety of writing called 'romantic'. For literature from the European Romantic movement of the 18th and 19th centuries, see Romanticism: Art and Literature.

Romantic fiction is one of the oldest genres in literature, with a history dating, at least, from the twelfth-century concept of courtly love—a compound of Provençal troubador attitude, Ovid's Classical conventions, and Virgin Mary veneration. In this context, the literary term, "romance"—originally referring to any kind of adventure story—has developed this specialised meaning.

The Romance: Medieval and Renaissance

Most medieval romances recount the marvelous adventures of a chivalrous, heroic knight, often of super-human ability, who, abiding chivalry's strict codes of honour and demeanour, fights and defeats monsters and giants, thereby winning favour with a beautiful, but fickle princess. The story of the medieval romance focuses not upon love and sentiment, but upon adventure; some would call contemporary comic books and sci-fi the genre's successors.

Romancers wrote many of their stories in three, thematic cycles: (i) the Arthurian (the lives and deeds of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table); (ii) the Carlovingian (the lives and deeds of Charlemagne, and Roland, his principal paladin); and, (iii) the Alexandrian (the life and deeds of Alexander the Great). In the later medieval and Renaissance period, the important European literary trend was to fantastic fiction. Exemplary work, such as the English Le Morte d'Arthur (c.1649), by Sir Thomas Malory (c.1408–1471), and the Spanish Amadís of Gaul (1508), spawned many imitators, and the genre was popularly well-received. But in the judgement of many learned readers of the time, the romance was poor literature; by 1600 most romances were deemed harmful distractions from more substantive or moral works.

Originally, this literature was written in Old English and Provençal, later, in French and German—the notable works being King Horn, Havelok the Dane; and Amis and Amiloun; later romances were written as prose, e.g. Le Morte d'Arthur, Don Quixote (1605, 1615), by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616), is the story of an elderly country gentleman, living in La Mancha province, crazed by reading chivalric romances.

Romantic novels

Romantic fiction includes drama, poetry, and short stories, but, in English literature, the term often is synonymous with novels based upon romantic love. The earliest English novels in this genre appeared in the 18th century. Classic, highly-regarded romantic novels are Pride and Prejudice (1813), by Jane Austen, Wuthering Heights (1847), by Emily Brontë, and Jane Eyre (1847), by Charlotte Brontë. Current romantic fiction often is denigrated as inferior to literary fiction. Prevailing opinion, amongst non-readers, of the genre is that books are unrealistic, formulaic, and dipsosable entertainment for uneducated women seeking escape; as any stereotype, this opinion holds truth and untruth.

The publishing house Harlequin , along with its British arm Mills and Boon, is best-known for publishing romantic fiction. Currently, there are several large houses publishing romances, e.g. Avon books, an imprint of the HarperCollins publishing house.

See also Romance novel

Last updated: 05-07-2005 14:48:35
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04