||[Apr. 18th, 2005|02:31 pm]
|||||May Day Cafe--The Nields||]|
(Firstly, I’ve been meaning to start this journal for ages, and I’m really embarrassed to kick it off like this, with a plea for help).
I’m an MFA student at the University of Iowa and I’m taking a class called “Uncreative Writing,” in the rhetoric department, in which I want to demonstrate that fanfiction, at least sometimes, serves as the vehicle for legitimate critical response to a text, and I’d love to do it using Harry Potter. This is in part because it’s probably the fandom I know most about, but also because I think it’s really fascinating how the Harry Potter books run the gamut (in my opinion) of the best and worst of fandom and fanfiction. I find fanfiction really interesting (I make it up but don’t write it—I have enough trouble getting my “real” writing done on time) and I know that reading fanfiction has sometimes helped me articulate issues that I found troubling or problematic in the text.
In practice, what I hope to do is find examples of that kind of critical thought emerging through fanfiction and then discuss it in the context of “serious,” “academic,” “legitimate” criticism—and also spend sometime looking at what fanfiction-as-criticism can contribute—both in terms of criticism itself and also in asking how people read.
I’d love to be able to pick your brains for story recommendations and thoughts on this idea.
I’m still going through stories to use as examples. I’d like to be able to refer to several for a topic/trope/theme and then use one or two in particular as closer readings. These are subjects I’ve looked at and thought about so far:
--the racism and/or fascism analogies via questions of pureblood, Death Eaters, attitudes towards Muggleborns and Muggles by both the “good” and the “bad”, etc. I would LOVE to be able to write about this, because I think that it’s a rather problematic analogy in a lot of ways (especially having done my Honors history on fascism in Europe).
--Dumbledore. How moral is he? How partisan is he? Does the second undermine the first? How moral is his relationship vis a vis Harry (i.e., is he using him, does he recognize this, does he care, does it matter if he cares, etc). What kind of moral figurehead does he serve as, especially with relation to inter-House issues? Has he been negligent, both in allowing those issues to fester (or even encouraging them—and is he conscious of that?) and/or in continually allowing Harry to expose himself to danger (as well as Ron and Hermione)?
--What kind of place is Hogwarts, anyway? What haven’t we been allowed to see, and why not? (Obviously, this could include the lack of Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff time, but also issues like the failure to address students’ presumable psychic trauma, or why so many of the teachers seem barely competent or mentally stable).
--Building off of the last two, the overarching moral structure in the narrative: Gryffindor=good, Slytherin=bad. How does this reconcile with the supposed message of the racial metaphor, or the remark by Dumbledore that it is choices that define character? What about the darker side of the Gryffindor ethos—i.e., what’s going on with Fred and George?
--and continuing from that on, how is “evil” or “villainy” understood in the story? This could include POV stories from antagonistic characters, if they explore why they are antagonistic rather than simply “evil.”
--with regards to all of these issues, how does the author and/or the point-of-view fit in? Are we intended to view Harry as a unreliable narrator? Is the limited focus a manifestation of the character’s biases or the authors? This isn’t the kind of thing likely to be explored in a fanfiction piece itself (unless it’s a very meta one indeed), but insights from authors, readers, or communities on this would be very helpful. I very much want to show the way that very traditional questions of literary criticism (authorial intent, etc) can be worked through in fanfiction and fandom communities.
I’d also love to get some feedback from fanfic writers and readers—about whether a fanfiction story has ever caused you to view the canonical text differently, and, as writers, whether addressing issues like the ones above (or, say, “problematizing”) has been an inspiration for stories. I’m also going to be mentioning the way some fandom communities engage in critical discussion, so comments about that would be appreciated, as well as insights on how or why fanfiction satisfies you (as an example, I think an element I’ll be exploring is what does it mean to be a “fan,” or specifically a “critical fan,” and if I can articulate that, what kind of value readings by fans as opposed to critics brings to the discussion. In other words, what it means to be a fan who questions or disagrees with elements in the source text).
If you have any stories you could recommend (by you or by someone else—I will of course contact the authors), or would be interested in discussing this further, I’d love your help and insight. You can leave a post in my journal, or e-mail me at email@example.com or leave me a message on AIM (my name is in my profile). My professor is hoping to get something publishable about it, so I can’t post it, but if you’d be interested, I’d be happy to e-mail a copy to contributors when it’s complete.
And I swear, I’ll work really hard at coming up with an amusing, non-begging post in the future!