Literary Criticism Of Fan Fiction

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In social and media studies, fan activity, such as creating fan art and indeed fan fiction, has been studied extensively as a social phenomenon. Regarding fans as audiences rather than readers has led to a lot less attention to fan fiction in literary studies, and most of those studies try to defend fan fiction’s status as literature rather than fan fiction being a form of literary criticism. To explore fan fiction as literary criticism, literary theory offers more appropriate methodologies than media studies.
Most literary scholars who do explore fan fiction as criticism look at fan fiction with a Barthesian standpoint. Roland Barthes, in S/Z, distinguishes between readerly and writerly texts, and this distinction has been used to better
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The fan is primarily a reader, who might actively engage with a text by writing fan fiction. As fans are readers first, who might revisit their favorite texts again and again through reading or writing fan fictions, I primarily employ literary theories of reading and interpretation. Reader response theory offers a concept of active reading that is applicable here: it tends to emphasise reading as an activity which changes over time (Bertens 96). Hans Bertens summarizes the phenomenological position reader response criticism takes: “Since we cannot with absolute certainty know that we know the outside world, we must focus on how that world appears to our senses and is constituted by our consciousness” (96). Instead of the ‘real’ world, in studying fan fiction we look at the textual world and how readers experience and respond to…show more content…
This is in conjunction with the notion of faultline stories, a conception by Alan Sinfield. Faultine stories, according to Sinfield, “address the awkward, unresolved issues; they acquire the most assiduous and continuous reworking; they hinge upon a fundamental, unresolved ideological complication that finds its way, nilly-willy into texts. […] Authors and readers want writing to be interesting, and these unresolved issues are the most promising for that” (Cultural Politics 4). For Sinfield, these issues are found in real life, but for fan fiction authors these issues are found in the textual world. This may not necessarily be true for all fan fiction, but certainly for some. Sinfield works with a distinction between dissident and conservative texts, which also applies to fan fiction. The fan fiction that is dissident, which Sinfield “take[s] to imply refusal of an aspect of the dominant”, is what is worth looking into when analysing fan fiction as a form of literary criticism. The dominant would be the Harry Potter source material, the canon, and fan fiction would function as the
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