Romance at the Ivy League

I've never known if it's really true but I've often heard it bandied about that most of the "Simpsons" writers are young Harvard grads. If so, then I guess nobody should be surprised to learn that some heavy-hitting Ivy Leaguers are now churning out romance novels.

In fact, it seems, Ivy Leaguers are studying them as well as writing them. Last April Princeton University hosted a scholarly conference titled "Love as the Practice of Freedom? Romance Fiction and American Culture."

The conference organizer, Eric Selinger, who teaches at DePaul University  and holds a Ph.D from UCLA, says he discovered romance fiction after reading his wife's copy of "Bridget Jones's Diary." "I read it and I loved it," Selinger told USA Today. That one book led him to others and eventually he began teaching a course on the romance genre.

But Selinger is hardly alone. Romance writer Eloisa James (author of "Desperate Dutchesses" and "Potent Pleasures") is really Mary Bly, a tenured professor  at Fordham University. Julia Quinn ("The Viscount Who Loved Me" and "How to Marry a Marquis") is really Julie Pottinger, a Harvard grad who dropped out of Yale Medical School to pursue a career as a romance writer.

In an article in USA Today, some of these brainy writers confess that (despite that Princeton conference) they still face scorn from much of the rest of the world.

Selinger says that he finds that it's actually easier for him, as a man, to champion this form of writing. "Nobody thinks I'm a spinster or trapped in a bad marriage, or I'm betraying feminism," he says. "People don't judge me as much."

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