alias_sqbr: (bookdragon)
[personal profile] alias_sqbr
(I write this as a post on the forums for the course "Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative" and NOONE REPLIED so I'm archiving it here. Note that this is about Romance in the old fashioned sense, not romance novels. I feel weirdly self conscious posting something meant for one audience to another)

I haven't studied any humanities since highschool, but something I find really interesting is the complicated interplay between different cultures and changes in attitude within a given culture, and how these affect long standing genres like the Romance. I was hoping this would be more of a focus in this course than it has been so far, I hope it comes up later. So for now I'll just ramble about what I have picked up as an amateur and hopefully more knowledgeable people will chime in :)

So far the course has followed the "Western Tradition", jumping from ancient Greece to 19th century England, then to Tolkein in 1930s England and finally to (mostly US based) modern films and games. But the Western tradition has been strongly influenced by many romance-esque works from non-Western cultures, as well as the pre-Roman/Christian stories of Western Europe. What I'm interested in, and hope the course will cover is: how do these genres differ from the typical "Romance" and how have they added to it? How much have they influenced modern Romance-esque computer games?

The last set of lectures mentioned Sinbad, which I found interesting, since he's not from the Western tradition, but is instead from the 1001 Nights, a collection of stories written in the middle East, Africa, and India in the 8th to 13th centuries (though I guess these cultures would have been influenced by the Greeks?). It also mentioned cowboy movies, which drew heavily on the earlier samarai films of Akira Kurosawa (who was himself influenced by even earlier US made films) There has been a long running give and take between Western and Japanese speculative fiction, especially in video games, with the themes of Western Romance blurring with Asian genres like Wuxia. See for example the US game company Bioware's Wuxia inspired Jade Empire, or the Japanese company Square Enix's Romance inspired Final Fantasy games.

I know there are epics like The Tale of the Genjii from Japan, Journey to the West from China and the Ramanyana from India going back a thousand years or more but I don't know what if any direct influence they have had on the Romance genre (and vice versa).

Another related but more delicate topic I find interesting is the way these genres are affected by social attitudes. The Romance Hero is typically a powerful individual with a unique destiny who is Born To Rule, which (as far as I can tell?) ties into the individualist and monarchist tendencies in Europe during the times the genre was developing. I get the feeling the conventions of epics from other cultures are a little different? Possibly reflecting the different values of those cultures? (this is something I would like to know more about!) There's also the more subtle differences between the different cultures making up "The West": as an Australian I feel our idea of an enjoyable Romance is not quite the same as the ones coming out the US or England, though I can't articulate the precise differences.

One thing I know for sure is that the natures of Romances have changed over time to reflect changing social attitudes within Western culture(s): women get to be the hero a lot more for a start, and maybe even rescue a prince or two (or marry a princess if that's what they prefer ;)) The emphasis on the All Powerful Monarch Born to Rule is increasingly divorced from the political views of writers and readers, which doesn't mean it's bad but does change the nature of this type of story, divorcing it more and more from reality. Meanwhile as time passes newer time periods become part of the romanticised past, eg the modern regency romance genre takes inspiration from Jane Austen's (at the time) realistic novels to write escapist fantasy about the gentry of the early 19th century, since now they are exotic and interesting to your average reader. Modern readers no longer accept stories which assume women/brown people/the disabled/queer people/commoners etc either don't exist or are inherently threatening/strange/inferior, and so to keep the genre enjoyable these people are now allowed to be heroes/sidekicks etc rather than just villains and love interests (compare to Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, which takes as read the Victorian idea that visible disability implies moral inferiority)

The specific types and structure of the Romance expands and shifts but the basic form retains it's core appeal.

Ok this turned into a novel, so I shall reach my epic conclusion and depart, my quest complete *strides out in a rose petal strewn beam of light*
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