Library Dissertation Showcase

Red nail polish, artistic men, and Bernard Cadney’s flabby face: the gender identities constructed and communicated in 1930s popular romance novels

  • Year of Publication:
  • 2020

This project is an investigation into the gender identities constructed and communicated in the 1930s in popular romance novels. It builds on historical studies of popular culture which have excluded romantic narratives, and argues that popular narratives were a reflection of readers contemporary concerns. These narratives are examined through analysis of a sample of twenty novels written by bestselling author Denise Robins throughout the decade.

After consideration of the extent to which male publishers controlled elements of the narratives they produced, the first chapter establishes the popular romance novel as a rare site of female expression with minimal male influence. It argues that this is due to the commercial value attached to the communication of genuine female experiences, as shared by female authors and readers. This is followed by chapters which investigate the forms of femininity and masculinity respectively, which are located in popular romance. Central to this analysis is the notion of these gender identities belonging entirely to women’s lived experience.

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