Hierdie artikel wys op die winste van ander literatuurstudiebenaderings as teksanalise. Na ’n kort
opsomming van navorsingsperspektiewe wat op die omgang van die leser met die teks fokus,
word die opset en bevindinge van ’n leserstudie onder Afrikaanse lesers van romanses beskryf.
’n Vergelyking met ander studies oor dieselfde genre dui op ooreenkomste, soos dat die genre
lesers help om aan die werklikheid te ontsnap en ontvlug, maar ook op verrassende verskille. Ten
spyte van die patriargale omgewing waarin die Afrikaanse romanseleser lewe, word dit – anders
as in ander studies – verswyg as rede vir ontvlugting. Die studie wys op die noue verbintenis
tussen teks, leser en konteks wanneer die Afrikaanse romanselesers ontvlugting van misdaad as
die werklikheid waarvan hulle wil ontvlug, aandui.
This article highlights the gains of approaches other than that of text analysis to the study of
The romance is a literary genre that developed in Western culture mainly in English speaking
countries. Romantic love is the essence of romantic fi ction and romances focus primarily on the
love and romantic relationship between a man and a woman and have optimistic and emotionally
satisfying endings. Until quite recently the idea of reading a romance often evoked derision, and
there was a general assumption that the novels were read by less educated and less sophisticated
women. However, romance publishing is big business in the West and also in South Africa and
the question thus arises as to why this genre is singled out for ridicule. This article, which is based
on a readership study of Afrikaans readers of romance novels, seeks to understand this phenomenon.
After a short overview of research perspectives that focus on the association of the reader
with the text, the context and results of the readership study are discussed. The study was undertaken
on behalf of a South African publishing house and focuses on the demography of Afrikaansspeaking
romance readers, their overall reading practices and the reasons for reading romances.
The investigation was loosely based on Radway’s seminal study on readers of romances as
discussed in her book Reading the Romance (1983). Questionnaires were included in a consignment
of romances sent to members of romance book clubs. The questionnaires included, inter alia, the
questions of why the respondents read romances and why these novels are preferred, or are felt
to be “better” to read, than other books.
One of the main themes that emerged from the responses was the women’s need to escape
from the unsatisfactory realities of everyday life. This corresponds directly with results obtained
from other studies of the genre. However, a surprising difference with existing studies also emerged
when the responses regarding what respondents were escaping from were analysed. In spite of
the patriarchal environment in which Afrikaans speaking women in South Africa fi nd themselves,
this was not, as was predominant in other studies, mentioned as a reason/factor from which to
escape. Instead, the South African women overwhelmingly indicated that they read romance novels
to escape from the realities of rampant crime and violence touching upon their everyday lives. The main contribution of this readership study therefore, in which Afrikaans romance readers
indicate that through their reading of romance novels they manage to escape from an unsatisfactory,
crime-ridden reality, is that it clearly shows the close relationship between reader, text and sociohistorical
realities. It furthermore demonstrates that literature can also be studied for the role it
plays in the life of the reader and how the reader, by means of romance texts, may cope with such
contexts and/or realities.