Fifty Shades of Narrative
Mentor:Bryan Rasmussen, Assistant Professor of English, California Lutheran Univeristy
In my paper, I question whether or not the gender of an author conditions why an audience is drawn to certain novels. The author in question here is the popular novelist Nicholas Sparks, author of bestsellers such as The Notebook and Dear John. I argue that Sparks’ novels reveal an understanding of gendered language using both "male" and "female" speech, which may explain Sparks as a cultural phenomenon especially among women. In character dialogue between men and women, especially, Sparks uses what feminist narrative theorists like Ingrid Daemmrich and Susan Lanser identify as the specifically masculine and feminine speech patterns. I hope to use this insight to explore how Sparks uses traditional gendered speech to keep his female following. My exploration raises the question of where to locate Sparks’s appeal: in his use of gendered language, or in his (masculine) authorial presence. Would he be such a "cultural phenomenon" if he were a woman writing the same stories? Ultimately, by putting my narratological examination in the context of reader reviews of his novels, I posit that there might be another level of gender dynamics at work in Sparks as a cultural phenomenon: namely, a heterosexual attraction invoked in his readers.