The old maid and the bad girl have long been archetypes within the world of chick lit.

Marilyn Francus and Gwen Bergner, associate professors of English at West Virginia University, will discuss these two figures and the roles they play in romantic literature on Thursday, Feb. 25 from 4 to 5 p.m. in the Greenbrier Room of the Mountainlair.

“It seems that women who refuse the feminine norm have long populated literature and cultural representation in types such as the femme fatale, shrew, siren or Lolita,” said Bergner.

“However, these types often represent a cultural fantasy of the outlaw woman, one that is actually in keeping with many conventional notions of women as sexual seductress or dominating women,” she added.

For the first part of the presentation, Bergner will discuss this idea of the bad girl and explain how this common representation often actually reinforces traditional concepts of gender roles through some karmic punishment of the character.

In the second half of the presentation, Francus will discuss how the works of Jane Austen relate to modern chick lit.

The ideas that a guy will change himself to fit what a heroine expects and that a happy ending with the perfect relationship is inevitable are both concepts that grew out of Austen’s work, and they have permeated virtually the entire chick lit genre.

Austen’s work can be used as a lens through which to view the societal dynamics of dating and romance.

This event is part of the 30th anniversary celebration of the Center for Women’s Studies at WVU. For more information, visit

For more information about the lecture, contact Gwen Bergner at 304-293-9704 or or Marilyn Francus at 304-293-9716 or



CONTACT: Rebecca Herod, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
304-293-7405, ext. 5251,