Fan studies – a new article

Evan Hayles Gledhill writes:

Fan studies is an exciting and developing field that is highly inter-disciplinary; drawing together social science, history, literature, musicology and media scholars. My own research, into Gothic fiction, led me to become interested in audiences and fandoms. Gothic is a very meta-textual genre, drawing on the readers awareness of the constructed nature of the fiction – from the first-wave gothic tradition of pretending to have ‘found’ a manuscript you translated to produce the tale, to the ‘found footage’ monster movie like Cloverfield (2008). A hyper-awareness of form, context and audience response in the genre led to Gothic fans being one of the first fandoms depicted within their own genre – in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1817).

Fan studies, as a recognised discipline, has been developing in the academy since the 1970s and scholars have addressed modern fandoms from those focused on football, to Star Trek, to the Backstreet Boys. The Fan Studies Network formed five years ago, and holds annual inter-disciplinary conferences. My interest is in tracing the roots of the individual and group behaviours we ascribe to fans back before the twentieth century. Scrapbooking, collecting items that had been used or touch by the object of devotion, and the writing of fanfiction are all practices with a long history. As a PhD student based in the literature department, I focus on the textual aspects of fandom – fans of authors, fans as authors, and authors as fans!

The fan is often positioned, culturally, in opposition to the author for control of the meaning and content of the literary text. This binary dynamic between reader and author is a discourse of power relations, as are other pairings such as masculine and feminine, or public and private. This article explores how these inter-linked pairs describe a matrix of gendered space, both physically and textually. The title of this article draws a parallel between debates over authorship and control of the text, and the enclosure debates about ownership and land usage in the nineteenth century. Debates about fan practices and audiences often seem to be purely about the content of the text itself. However, they are as much about the spaces involved – the space of the text on the page, and the space in which fan practice occurs – and thus, are about the value structures regarding the gendered bodies that inhabit these spaces.

If you would like to read more, this last paragraph comes from my article ‘Poaching in the Textual Enclosure: Nineteenth-Century Literary Fandoms, at the Intersection of Gender and Space’ appears in the Goldsmiths postgraduate journal GLITS-e for 2015-16, which has just been published online:


About Cindy

Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature at the University of Reading. Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
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