Chapter in Edited Collection: Love on the High Seas: The Pirate in Romance Fiction

STATUS: Book to be published in early August. Very excited to see myself in print for the first time!

Love and Desire on the High Seas: The Pirate in Romance Fiction.

Racheal Harris
University of New England (Australia)

The image of the pirate is ever present in visual media and narrative. Across countless incarnations, the pirate figure has been used to conjure images of romance as much as it has been used to suggest those of terror. While discussions on the role of pirates and pirate characters has been applied to film, stage and television media however, when discussing the novel there is a large genre which is commonly excluded from academic consideration: the pirate as a romantic hero. Although romance plots frequently employ elements of history and/or historical settings/characters to their invariably formulaic plot lines; the romance novel is, at its core, a piece of purely escapist literature and as such provides ample source material when considering the influence and popularity of the pirate figure among modern audiences. As such, this specific genre of writing and the pirates which inhabit it is more than worthy of academic consideration. This chapter will consider the pirate as a he* is portrayed within the romance novel, with a specific view to the important contribution which the character archetype makes to the genre, particularly from a feminist perspective. It aims to look specifically at how pirate characters are depicted; who they are understood to be within their social surrounds, how they are perceived in the eyes of the love interest; and how they differ from other, more commonly occurring heroes within the Romance Fiction genre. Of specific interest to the author is how, if at all, the figure of the pirate lover has changed across generations of romance readers. By examining a cross section of pirate themed romance novels from both well-known and unknown romance authors, the study will examine the traits which these figures have in common and how they are used to entice the heroine of the piece. Unlike the more stereotypical hero of the romance novel (the wealthy, aristocratic bachelor), the pirate represents a level of danger for the heroine. With this foremost in mind, this study will suggested that the pirate becomes a tool through which the heroine is able to gain adventure and freedom from the social landscape of her time (whenever that might be); as well as becoming an avenue through which she is able to experience romantic entanglement and sexual awakening. In this regard, the sub-genre of the pirate themed romance provides a more forward thinking and socially unconstrained heroine; one who speaks more to the feminist reader of the modern era. It is for this reason specifically that pirate themed romances continue to rate highly among romance readership.

*On occasion, in romance fiction, the pirate character is portrayed as a female and/or as the heroine. This particular study chooses to focus on more traditional genre narratives however, in which the pirate is the male lead.

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