The discourse of fan fiction

by Wright, Susan Ashley, Ph.D., UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE, 2009, 209 pages; 3370027


Because of their prominence, online writing communities and avenues provide the field of Rhetoric and Composition with insight into quotidian writing and help for composition classrooms. The specific online communities created by fan fiction writers reveal not only dialogic and heteroglossic interaction with or against producers of written and visual texts, but also hegemonic gatekeepers who control which writers may enter and remain in the community.

By analyzing a baseline of one hundred stories in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Trek: The Original Series fandoms, as well as twenty Thunderbirds stories, I discovered hegemonic moves in the discourse generated by the stories' reviews, authors' notes, authors' biographies, and authors' site-sponsored interviews. While Buffy fans show a preference for policing writers' portrayal of canon facts, they also critiqued writers' style and grammar. Conversely, while Star Trek fans show a preference for policing style and grammar, they also critiqued writers' canonical accuracy. However, Star Trek and Thunderbirds reveal a gate-keeping dynamic absent in the Buffy fandom—the power of the Original Fan (i.e., someone who watched the shows during their first run in the 1960s). Such fans occasionally abuse their status to expel younger or less experienced fan writers from the community. However, despite this potentially hostile atmosphere, teen writers create a space at the discourse's edge and support each others' writing.

For the field of Rhetoric and Composition, my research indicates that within fan fiction discourse, agency both does and does not exist. Although fan fiction is an act of appropriation, the discourse is controlled by expert writers; however, the teenage writers creating subcommunities prove that writers suppressed by the dominant discourse can and will create space for themselves in the open landscape of cyberspace. In the composition classroom, instructors may discuss with students these gate-keeping behaviors and their significance and function in a writing community. In doing so, instructors may compare and contrast fan fiction conventions and discourse to academic conventions and discourse.

Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsModern literature; Rhetoric
Publication Number3370027

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