Romance versus Romanticism

As I looked through pictures from last week’s RWA conference in Orlando, I couldn’t help but reflect how different so-called academic conferences are from fan conferences.  Sure, the RWA had panels and discussions from agents, publishers, authors, and other experts in the field.  But the composition of the conference was substantially different from academic conferences.

Next week I will be attending the NASSR conference in Vancouver.  I will be giving a paper and chairing another panel.  I know I will have fun when I go.  But unlike the RWA conference, there will be no press reporters.  Authors of academic books will be there, but I doubt there will be book signings.  And despite the fact that everyone who attends the NASSR conference will know their subject inside and out, I doubt there will be squeals of delight over Wordsworth’s Lucy poems.  Which, in a way, will be too bad.

Many classes on Romanticism begin with a discussion on the differences between the words romance/romantic/romanticism.  It’s almost necessary to begin building a vocabulary to use to describe the movement and time period.  Romanticism does not refer directly to romantic love.  The two terms and their divergent meanings can coexist, however; Jane Austen, for example, bridges the gap between the academic canon and the reader’s desire for love.

As I put the finishing touches on my paper, I will be thinking about the differences between the Romance and the Romanticism conferences.  While there will undoubtedly be Janeites at NASSR, they will probably remain in the closet.  Yet perhaps there is a way to bridge the gap between popular culture and academic discourse.  Must an academic conference be dry and pedantic to be successful?