Fanfiction in Medieval Studies: What Do We Mean When We Say 'Fanfiction'?
Panel title: "Fanfiction in Medieval Studies: What Do We Mean When We Say 'Fanfiction'?"
Conference: 52nd International Congress on Medieval Studies Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 11-14, 2017
Organizer: Dr Anna Wilson, email@example.com
Abstract submission deadline Sept 15
Over the past three decades, there has been increasing interest in both Fan Studies and Medieval Studies in the relationship between medieval literary culture and fan fiction (popular, ‘unofficial’, fan-generated creative writing that participates in a pre-existing fictional ‘universe’ and uses its characters). Many Fan Studies scholars have seen fanfiction as the heir to the premodern literary tradition in which authors adapt, rework, reinterpret or otherwise engages with a pre-existing literary work. Fan Studies scholars often refer to the Aeneid’s reworking of Homer, romances in the Alexander or Arthurian traditions, or specific works, such as Robert Henryson’s Testament of Cresseid, as ‘early fan fiction’. Fanfiction scholars have also claimed the medieval ‘active reader’, whose creativity spilled into glosses, commentaries and exegesis, as part of the history of fanfiction writers. Some medievalists have chafed at inaccurate representations of medieval literary culture by Fan Studies scholars, while many others have found that the analogy between the literary activity of fan communities and medieval literary cultures generates valuable and thought-provoking questions that have informed their own research or teaching.
At the first ever session on fanfiction in Medieval Studies at ICMS 2016, papers on such diverse subjects as marginal commentary on The Book of John Mandeville and Chinese fan subtitles of Disney’s Mulan showed the fertility of the idea of fanfiction for reframing the medieval reader, reading communities, affect, and modern medievalisms. However, panellists returned over and over to the question of how to use the term ‘fanfiction’ productively and accurately when discussing medieval practices and texts. Our 2017 proposed session, “What Do We Mean When We Say Fanfiction?” will invite papers that discuss medieval texts and practices with reflection on the following questions: what characterises fanfiction or fandom before the rise of the technologies - the printing press, the photocopier, the internet - without which it is impossible to imagine modern fandom? is it the intensity of readerly affect? the mere fact of rewriting or reinterpretation of a pre-existing text? resemblance to modern fanfiction tropes? the existence of a ‘virtual community’ of readers? How might using the term ‘fanfiction’ occlude or erase important details of the way medieval readers experienced texts? How might it bring to the fore elements previously neglected?
For further reading in Fan Studies, an up-to-date bibliography is maintained on Zotero, affiliated with the journal Transformative Works and Cultures. It can be found here: https://www.zotero.org/groups/11806.
Please submit abstracts of 300 words or less, and a Participation Information Form (available here: http://wmich.edu/medieval/congress/submissions/index.html#PIF) to Anna Wilson (firstname.lastname@example.org).