Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Maria Pelizzari

Second Advisor

Thomas LaPadula

Academic Program Adviser

Maria Pelizzari


Romance novel covers dating from the 1980s and 1990s reflect complex and contradictory ideas about gender, power, and sexuality. The covers overflow with stereotypes of what women are attracted to such as enormous pink roses, lush folds of silk, and hair long enough for Rapunzel. To this socially acceptable women’s imagery, the covers add two less reputable aspects: sexual imagery and, occasionally, suggestions of female submission. Since the association of romance and conventional femininity is so strong, the covers make a visual argument that submission and sexuality are things that a conventional woman wants. Readers have to deal with what it means to be seen reading a book with such a cover. This thesis aims to tackle how these covers have been regarded by both the consumer and producers of the works, and what political, social and visual trends in American culture of the 1980s and 1990s account for these genre conventions.



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