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In Uses of Literature, Rita Felski writes: “Romance in its various guises undoubtedly feeds a craving to be totally loved or unconditionally admired, proffering a momentary release from the reign of the mediocre and mundane, from the endless drudgery of daily compromise and concession” (2008, 62).


Here, Felski highlights a core pleasure of the romance genre: an escape from the everyday, to a place where something that is often considered fantastical – true love – is possible. However, “escapism” is also the criticism most frequently levied against romance narratives, with realism held up as the ideal. Because romances engage with this fantasy and provide this escape, they are idealistic, not realistic – and thus, for some commentators, imagined as socially irresponsible or even deleterious to their audiences (audiences usually assumed to be predominantly female).


The theme of the PCA Romance area in 2022 is fantasy and escape in romance and romantic media. We encourage you to define this theme broadly, and to think not just about specific texts but through them, to the broader discussions in which they are implicated. How can we most productively think through this tangled web of fantasy and escape and their relationship to the “real”?


Questions on this theme you might wish to explore include:


  • The fantasy of romance: what is it?
  • Romance in fantasy: how does the romance plot play out in fantastical worlds?
  • The right to fantasy: whose fantasies get represented in romantic media? Do we all dream about the same happy endings? How do race, religion, sexuality, and other factors affect romantic fantasies?
  • Escapism: where are we escaping from? where are we escaping to?
  • Escaping lockdown: how did we consume romantic media during the pandemic?
  • Creating new fantasies: what kinds of romance narratives were created during the pandemic?
  • Runaway heroines and heroes: how does escape work as a theme in romance? Does it play a different role depending on subgenre (such as captivity narratives, gothics, and/or romantic suspense)?
  • Seeking the fantasy in the real world: how do people go about looking for love?
  • Romance on reality TV:  what even counts as real?
  • Fan(fiction)tasizing: how are new possibilities for the romance imagined in fan culture?
  • Escaping unproductive discussions: how can we work over, under, around or through endless discussions about the merits of romance and popular culture?


If none of these suggestions appeal, or you simply want to pursue your own intellectual passion, you are very welcome to do so.


Who we are

The Romance Area of the PCA is deeply interested in popular romance both within and outside of mainstream popular culture, now or in the past, anywhere in the world. Scholars, romance writers, romance readers/viewers, romance industry professionals, librarians, and any combination of these are welcome. You do not need to be an academic or have an institutional affiliation to be part of the Romance area. Undergraduates sponsored by an academic mentor are also welcome (please see our policy for undergraduates).


The Romance area invites any theoretical or (inter)disciplinary approach to any topic related to romance. Past presenters have drawn on methods from literary studies, history, library sciences, sociology, film studies, and creative writing, to name the most common approaches—we’ve even had a presentation with puppets (you know who you are). We’ve loved all of these. We would also like to emphasise that you do not need to write about romance novels to participate in this area (although that is obviously welcome!). The Romance area is open to engagements with all forms of media and culture that are concerned with romance, including, but not limited to, the following: art; literature; philosophy; radio and audio media; film and television; comics and graphic novels; videos, webzines and other online storytelling; and apps, including dating apps.



If you wish to organise a roundtable, special session, or film screening, please contact the Area Chairs, Jodi McAlister and Heather Schell. In 2022, we are particularly interested in pre-formed panels on a theme, so do not be shy with your submissions in this area.


As we do every year, the Romance area will meet in a special Open Forum to discuss upcoming conferences, works in progress, and the future of the field of Popular Romance Studies. All are welcome to attend.


Please submit 250-word abstracts to the PCA/ACA website (see the link and deadlines on this site).


One of us will review them within two weeks or so and notify you about our decision. We’ll get in touch with more details as the date approaches.


Please feel free to forward, cross-post, or link to this call for papers.


If you have any questions as all, please contact the area chairs:

Dr. Jodi McAlister

Deakin University

Melbourne, Australia



Dr. Heather Schell                                                                                      

George Washington University                                                               

Washington, DC 




2022 Conference Dates and Deadlines

01Aug-21 2022 Conference Information Available on Website
01 Sept-21 Submissions Open 
21 Jan-22 Deadline for Paper Proposals
11 Feb-22 Early Bird Registration Ends
12 Feb-22 Regular Registration Begins
01 Mar-22 Regular Registration Ends for Presenters; Those Presenters Not Registered by the Date Will be Dropped From the Program; Late Registration Continues for Nonpresenters
01 Apr-22 Late Registration Ends for Nonpresenters
April 13-16, 2022

Virtual conference


All presenters must be current, paid members of the PCA and registered for the conference. Non-presenters who attend the full conference must also pay membership fees.

To attend the National Conference, members must pay the membership fee and the registration fee.   

The last day for all refunds is February 20, 2022. No refund requests will be honored after this date. Membership fees are non-refundable and non-transferable.


Area chairs

Jodi McAlister

Heather Schell