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This is what happens when one reads the following texts in quick succession:

Anne Jamison's Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking over the World (**Note, this book is AWESOME, covers academic subjects in a popular voice, and is massive in its undertaking. So. Much. Love.)

Arthur Marotti's Manuscript, Print, and the English Renaissance Lyric (About the shifts and overlap in manuscript and print culture, specifically the compilation and sharing of texts.)

The Sherlock Holmes Fracas (See Why fans are outraged at Sherlock and Watson reading sexy fanfic. See also marthawells's awesome round-up on the incident.)

So I've had multiple ideas about all this stuff for a while now, many of which I am still trying to get a handle on aside from saying "hey lookit all these things that are SO ALIKE!" Specifically: gendered writing, gendered publication, sharing texts, transforming texts, the uses of authorship, the socio-political implications of all of these things.

Now, Sheena Pugh has another great book, The Democratic Genre: Fan Fiction in a Literary Context, which looks at a lot of this issues of authorship in shared texts and transformative works, and a lot more has been published on fanfic generally and specifically--we're finally getting over the questions of "why fans do they things they do" and into the "how fans do the things they do" which I think is WAY MORE INTERESTING. I mean it's one thing to say "women like to create things with their friends" but it's another to talk about how they do it.

Now Marotti and others are interesting in coterie writing in the 16th and 17th c.--where basically poets and their pals and patrons would share works, have ongoing conversations with texts, etc. etc. 1) A lot of this activity is by women 2) in manuscript rather than print. (Eg. They could to some extent control the circulation of their works.) A popular idea behind this behavior is what's known as the "stigma of print"--having "private" materials by a literary class (often upper class but also some middle-class participants) circulate publicly was seen as problematic, and in the case of women writers it could be politically and socially harmful. (Because if we attack "egotistical women writers" now, imagine what they did then: oy!)

So you have all of these women writing quietly, with men usually oblivious and occasionally condoning or praising.

[Sidenote, Marotti provides this fun poem by Henry King, who was also John Donne's friend and literary executor in addition to being a bishop:

To a Lady

When your fair hand receives this Little Book
You must not there for Prose or Verse look.
Those empty regions which within you see,
May by your self planted and peopled bee.
And though wee scarse allow your Sex to prove
Writers (unlesse the argument be Love)
Yet without crime or envy You have roome
Here both the Scribe and Author to become.

Things I particularly like: Hey, he's talking about women confined to genre back in the 17th c! And also, why doesn't anyone ever give me notebooks with poems? Sigh.]

Alright, now then you have Ben Jonson, who did something scandalous: He printed up a volume of his Works (also egotistical, because the implication of printing one's Works is that one had carefully DIED and your loving friends did it FOR you, see: Philip Sidney), which Marotti argues helped solidify not only the sociocultural impact of vernacular literature/literary history but also of professional authorship.

This segues to EL James, who did 50 Shades and broke the internet and also publishing because OMG this woman wrote a fanfic of a woman's books and then she published it and made money OMG, and 1) who does that and 2) what kind of a FAN does that?!

Leading BACK to the stigma of print with Caitlin Moran having the Sherlock actors awkwardly read some fic in front of an audience of hundreds, humiliating the fan, making the actors uncomfortable, and acknowledging the "silent" work of fans broadly and problematically, and ALSO without the CONSENT of that fan.

Mirrors in mirrors, man!

But also, let's look at the gendered interplay here: 1) Doyle's work 2) transformed by Moffat and Gattis 3) transformed by women fans 4) mocked by a woman writer 5) who then gets (reportedly) chewed out by (male) BBC controllers.
**A great big part of the problem of the fracas is the silence of both the Sherlock actors and writers on all this. Make what you will of this specifically male silence.

Okay here's another interesting book I also highly recommend: Fandom At The Crossroads: Celebration, Shame and Fan/Producer Relationships by Lynn Zubernis and Katherine Larson, which goes into ALL of the breaking the fourth wall/stigmas in Supernatural. Which, if you've never seen it: Um, women fans love this show about pretty guys fighting things, then in the show itself they wrote women fans interacting with texts about the protagonists, who were squicked, and again with the mirrors in mirrors. The book discusses not only this but documents reactions in fandom, where again you had something like the stigma of print because how could these people write about what women were doing and mock it, etc. etc.


Okay, so that's about as far as I got because my brain just went pfft but these are some things going on in my brain. So there.


( 7 comments — Add your .02 )
Dec. 17th, 2013 10:38 pm (UTC)
This post = awesome. Thank you!
Dec. 19th, 2013 04:55 am (UTC)
Dec. 17th, 2013 11:44 pm (UTC)
I think you just broke my brain, but it a good way! :D

Dec. 19th, 2013 04:55 am (UTC)
I think I broke my own brain, but--I do that. <3
Dec. 21st, 2013 02:38 am (UTC)
*reads with fascination, taking notes*
Jan. 4th, 2014 03:57 pm (UTC)
great post
questions of "why fans do they things they do" and into the "how fans do the things they do": I share your interest in the "how" but it seems to me this also ends up being a disciplinary divide--"fan studies" has specifically been about the fans, their motivations and meanings, and hence more anthropological/sociological. My interests tend to be more on the work and the making of the work and what *the work* does and what *the work* means. (And yes, I do know who that sounds like.)

I also run into the problem that literary critical that focus on the single work aren't well-suited to bringing out what is most interesting about fanworks. The emphasis on work "standing alone" as a test of quality has been used to devalue the efforts of coterie writers in the past, and is so deeply accepted that almost no one thinks to ask--what if "standing alone" is not the ultimate test of quality? What if that just isn't true? What if we asked different questions?
Jan. 4th, 2014 06:12 pm (UTC)
Re: great post
Wait, Fic is your book? That is awesomesauce!!

I agree about the "problems" of stand-alone work in coterie and fan works--I think that what makes them most interesting is their dialogues with each other and how it's essentially impossible to stand alone. Another book I read recently, Fanged Fan Fiction, which focuses on fic in Twilight etc universes, discusses fics as being a type of archontic literature, which is a term I hadn't heard before; basically, archontic literature revisits derivative and transformative works in terms of how we view them hierarchically. I haven't read enough about archontic lit to know how it addresses value judgements we place on these works, but I think it would fall in line with the idea that intertextuality makes something more interesting and powerful than not.
( 7 comments — Add your .02 )

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