Chick lit is the marketing label attributed to a surge of books published in the wake of Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary (1996) and Candace Bushnell's Sex and the City (1997). Branded by their pink or pastel-coloured book covers, chick-lit novels have been a highly successful and ubiquitous product of women's popular culture since the late 1990s.
This study traces the evolution of chick lit not only as a genre of popular fiction, but as a cultural phenomenon. It complicates the genealogy of the texts by situating them firmly in the context of age-old debates about female literary creation, and by highlighting the dynamics of the popular-fiction market. Offering a convincing dissection of the formula which lies at the heart of chick lit, as well as in-depth analyses of a number of chick-lit titles ranging from classic to more recent and edgier texts, this book yields new insights into a relatively young field of academic study. Its close readings provide astute assessments of chick lit's notoriously skewed representational politics, especially with regard to sexuality and ethnicity, which feed into current discussions about postfeminism. Moreover, the study makes a unique contribution to the scholarly debate of chick lit by including an analysis of the (online) fan communities the genre has fostered.
The Cultural Politics of Chick Lit weaves a sound methodological network, drawing on reader-response criticism; feminist, gender, and queer theory; affect studies; and whiteness studies. This book is an accessible and engaging study for anyone interested in postfeminism and popular culture.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Situating Chick Lit in Popular Culture
Part I: Contexts
1. That's me! - Enter Everywoman
Bridget's Sisters, Mothers and Grandmothers - A Genealogy
Chick Lit's Critical Reception: "Still scribbling, still damned" (Modleski xxi)
From Harlequin/Mills & Boon to Chick Lit: Reinventing the Romance?
The Making/Marketing of a Genre
The (Non-)Death of Chick Lit
2. Reading/Writing Chick Lit: Online Fandom and its Impact on the Genre
Of Bloggers, Fans, and Poachers
The Chick-Lit Blog Survey
Part II: Texts
3. Engaging The Reader: Ambiguity, Identification, and Interpretation
Offers of Identification and Reader Positions in Chick Lit
The Failed Chick: Emma McLaughlin's and Nicola Kraus's Citizen Girl (2004)
4. Funny Chicks: Humour and Irony in Chick Lit
The Forms and Functions of Humour in Chick Lit
Lynn Harris's Death by Chick Lit (2007): Humouring Different Readerships
5. Escapism is for Everyone: Structures of Desire in Chick Lit
Nostalgia in Chick Lit
Neoliberal Fantasies: Erica Kennedy's Feminista (2009)
Conclusion and Outlook: The Evolution of a Formula
Heike Mißler is a Senior Lecturer at the English Department of Saarland University, Germany, where she has recently completed her PhD on postfeminist fiction. Her research interests are feminist theory, gender and queer studies, and popular culture studies.
"The Cultural Politics of Chick Lit offers an innovative, contemporary approach to the genre of chick lit, focusing on its readers and fans, as well as its place in on-going debates about gender politics, race, ethnicity and economics. It should be essential reading for scholars of chick culture in all its forms (novels, films, television series) but also those seeking a model for serious, nuanced analysis of popular culture products, politics and fan reception." Suzanne Ferriss, Department of Literature and Modern Languages, Nova Southeastern University, USA
"The Cultural Politics of Chick Lit makes an important contribution to the field of chick lit studies by analysing the mechanisms behind this incredibly popular fiction industry. Mißler’s work presents a fascinating look at both the genre and the fans that love it." Caroline J. Smith, Professor in the University Writing Program, George Washington University, USA
"The Cultural Politics of Chick Lit is a fascinating study not only of chick lit, but of the web of issues surrounding it: the on-going development of women’s popular literature, the discourses of feminism and postfeminism, and both the scholarly approach to and fan reception of popular culture. This book will be required (and pleasurable!) reading for audiences in all of those areas." Mallory Young, Regents Professor in Department of English and Languages, Tarleton State University, USA
"Heike Mißler’s study marks a new and substantial contribution in scholarly analyses of the multimedia and cross-genre body of literary and cultural production grouped commercially under the umbrella known as “chick lit.”" Stephanie Harzewski, University of New Hampshire, USA