“Modified in the guts of the living”: Victorian Texts in Contemporary Fandoms
In a practice Henry Jenkins famously refers to as “textual poaching,” fans appropriate characters and narratives from canonical texts in order to adapt and rewrite them in novel ways, and for a variety of reasons: artistic, political, communal, financial, emotional, sexual, and other. Contemporary fandoms are vast in scope, multi-platformed, multimedia subcultures which operate via an economy of participation that has typically held itself apart from academic study, while simultaneously being scorned as an ‘illegitimate’ subject of study by the academy. Recently, though, scholars from anthropologists to sociologists and literary theorists have begun to turn their attention to fandom and fanfiction as rich sites of cultural meaning. This attention is often a source of discomfort to the fans themselves, even as a new hybrid, “acafan” attempts to bridge the divide.
Hybridity is the essence of these transformative works. Lev Grossman states, “Fanfiction has become wildly more biodiverse than the canonical works that it springs from. It encompasses male pregnancy, centaurification, body swapping, apocalypses, reincarnation, and every sexual fetish, kink, combination, position, and inversion you can imagine and a lot more that you could but would probably prefer not to. It breaks down walls between genders and genres and races and canons and bodies and species and past and future and conscious and unconscious and fiction and reality” (Forward, Fic).
This diversity includes Victorian texts; in multiple fandoms, fanfiction authors have used Victorian source material as a starting point for writing about characters from literature, television, film and celebrity culture, creating what are called, in fan parlance, “crossovers”. These crossovers address lacunae in both canons, overwriting a broader variety of experience onto each source text.
This panel seeks to explore that variety: the biodiversity of Victorian texts within contemporary fandoms. How are the body of the text and the bodies in the texts altered by fan authors? What does this reveal about the canonical texts, the bodies that inhabit them, the bodies that wrote them, and the bodies that produce and consume them now? How, as W.H. Auden might have put it, are Victorian texts “modified in the guts of the living”?
The panel chairs are looking for contributors a planned panel at the Victorian Studies Association of Western Canada 2015 conference in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, on April 10-11 (original cfp here: http://web.uvic.ca/vsawc/vsawc-conferences/2015-conference/). Please submit a 250-word abstract to Elise Mitchell (firstname.lastname@example.org) and/or Elyssa Warkentin (Elyssa.Warkentin@umanitoba.ca) by September 25, 2014.