This book has its origins in the Romance Revisited conference which was hosted by the Centre for Women's Studies at Lancaster University in March 1993, and was inspired by our shared conviction that it was time to put romance back on the feminist agenda. An interdisciplinary conference, we believed, would provide the ideal forum in which to re-evaluate feminism's relationship to an institution which, however problematic, still has a major impact on everyone's lives (feminists included!).
Our hunch that this was, indeed, the moment to reopen the debates around feminism and romance was proven right. Both the feminist academic community and the media (national and international) responded with overwhelming enthusiasm. While the interest of the feminist academic community demonstrated just how much recent work has been, either overtly or covertly, concerned with romantic discourse, the concomitant explosion of press interest took us somewhat by surprise. In the week preceding the conference we were besieged by newspaper, radio and television reporters all wanting to know where romance fitted into contemporary feminist debates (as signalled by the Independent's headline, 'Feminists: Their True Story'). On this last point it is significant that, even after interviews in which we carefully stated our position as one of 'critical and sympathetic enquiry', the media remained on the whole stubbornly insistent upon a positive or negative feminist verdict on the subject of romance. We were thus simultaneously billed as part of the 'backlash against feminism' (women wanting to allow romance back into their lives after two decades of feminist disapproval) and as 'radical killjoys' out to rob women of their most basic pleasures! The reporter from the Sunday Express, for example, was utterly convinced that the whole point of the event was to deplore the fact that 'women still turned in their thousands to the suave, horse-riding heroes of paperbacks' (Kermode, 21.4.93).
Looking back, we see this media 'hysteria' as itself symptomatic of . . .