“Love will have its sacrifices”: Falmouth lecturer releases new book exploring tales of dark romance
13 February 2024
School of Communication lecturer Dr Jo Parsons has released an anthology titled Doomed Romances: Strange Tales of Uncanny Love, focusing on the weirder side of romantic literature. Published by the British Library, the book offers twelve tales written by celebrated 19th-21st century authors including Mary Shelley, Wilkie Collins, Angela Carter, Nalo Hopkinson, Tracy Fahey and V. Castro.
Throughout this collection of supernatural, ghostly and Gothic stories, Jo upends the ‘romantic’ tropes that have previously been considered to define the genre as she explores how weird tales can challenge the status quo.
Speaking to Jo about her book, she said: “The stories I have chosen for this volume overthrow traditional patriarchal power dynamics where the heroine is a passive victim of male desire. These stories bite back as wrongs are righted in the most hauntingly horrifying ways.”
The book is the latest publication of the British Library’s Tales of the Weird series of anthologies and has been published ahead of Valentine’s Day this year.
Jo is an expert in 20th and 21st century romantic and erotic literatures with specific interests in gender, sex and the body, and all of her work is grounded in cultural studies. She has also written widely on Victorian literature and masculinity. This anthology is her latest publication centred on erotic and romantic fiction.
Jo’s research is now centred on the Bonkbuster, a type of romance novel popular during the late 1970s-1990s whose most well-known authors include Jackie Collins, Jilly Cooper, Judith Krantz and Shirley Conran. Jo is currently in the process of writing a book on this subject as well as putting together an edited collection on these racy novels.
In October 2023, her expertise on the topic got her on Times Radio. On the programme, she said: “I’ve been teaching the Bonkbuster to my students and they love it! Students are no longer embarrassed about reading and writing romance, they’re really interested in writing sex scenes and considering relationships and it has led to some amazing pieces of creative work.”
Jo also launched Max Minerva bookshop’s Romance Festival in February 2024, which included a sold out romance writing workshop for the public.
Jo has just been elected to the Executive Committee of the Contemporary Women’s Writing Association and will be giving two talks on her work in March this year. The first will see her discussing reading romance, intimacy and the enduring appeal of Bonkbusters at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Jo will also be speaking at Pescara University in Italy, giving a talk entitled: Bonkbusters and Bestsellers: Women’s Writing in the Late Twentieth Century. The lecture will underline the importance of recovering and engaging with previously ignored women’s writing, which has suffered from critical neglect due to sexism and its popularity, as well as elitist attitudes towards what constitutes 'literature'.
Jo is also leading this year’s Dark Economies conference on the theme of Sex, Scandal and Sensation, which provides an interdisciplinary and global exploration of the role and impact of the sensational, the scandalous and the sexual in literature, film, television, gaming and other forms of cultural production, including the Bonkbuster.