Hard-Coded Humanities Speaking notes

Hardcoded Humanities Speaking Notes

[Early scholarship]

This project began with the questions of resistance, a resilient feature in fanfiction scholarship.

  1. In early years, many scholars defended fan practice, evoking a “fandom is beautiful” stage of scholarship, as Jonathan Grey, Cornel Sandvoss, and C. Lee Harrington phrase it.
  2. For example Henry Jenkins drew from Certeau and “textual poaching” to describe the way that fans “robbed” or “plundered” mainstream texts to produce their own.
  3. Many women, like Bacon-Smith focused on the work of women in fan communities, who “slashed” male characters.
  4. Represented by the “/” between names, slash writers took homosocial pairs—mostly male characters—and connected them in romantic or sexual pairs, the most famous one being Kirk and Spock, or “K/S,” written about by Bacon-Smith, Helen Merrick (1997), and Constance Penley (1991).
  5. In this work, fans were often seen as resisting dominant or hegemonic values and discourses, like masculinity, heteronormativity, or capitalist modes of production and circulation.

[Recent complications]

  1. While this has remained a focus in more recent scholarship, it has become increasingly complicated.
  2. Mark Jancovich and others in the mid-90s onward, primarily through Bourdieu, looked at the potential ways that fans may act as gate-keepers. As critical readers, they often exercised capital and unintentionally reified more dominant discourses.
  3. David Allington, by examining fan discussions in LOTR fandoms often looked at ways that fans represented themselves as reading “queer” subtexts already placed within the author. In this way, popular texts could serve multiple audiences.
  4. Robin Reid looks at “dark fic,” fanfiction with tragic endings that often incorporates elements of torture or rape as “resistant,” but resistant in ways that past scholarship didn’t necessarily acknowledge.
  5. More recently Kyra Hunting, examining the show “Queer as Folk,” looks at the way slashing operates in already queer texts, which have become more common in mainstream entertainment.
  6. Thus, the paradigm set of subversive fan resistance against dominant discourses has fallen out of favor, and fan scholarship—while still discussing it—has also moved onto other areas, like literacy or internet communities.

[Moving to Intertextuality]

  1. Reaching these complications, I decided to investigate more fully the role of intertextuality in this conversation—how it operates in practice.
  2. Alexandra Herzog, for one, has used Barthes and Genette to examine the role that author notes have in negotiating this deeply intertextual space. For Herzog, these notes—which I will discuss more later on—act as “paratextual” thresholds that allow the writer to negotiate the “death of the author” on the one hand and the “chorus of fan voices on the other,” all the while letting the individual author assert their interpretation and work.
  3. And in many ways, the potential offered by critical theory—like in the work of Barthes, Kristeva, Gennett, or even Bloom and Bakhtin—could help us understand these questions more fully.

[For my part]

  1. For my part I’m interested in looking at the intersection of Intertextuality and resistance.
  2. For my approach to resistance, I think it worth taking a deductive approach, moving from more traditional understandings of resistance to my data set. As of now, this has been the operative way of looking at resistance in this context and few models that I’m aware of, exist beyond it.
  3. For Intertextuality, as much as I love the theory, as a teacher of writing, I’m more interested in the practices and literacies of this data set. As such, I’m taking a more basic, direct view. In the future, I may draw in more theory, but for this project, I wanted to be more direct.
    1. Here, I consider detectable, as I often may miss a text. Particularly in light of Barthes and others deeply expansive view of intertextuality—as containing a never-ending range of texts and signifiers—I needed to bound. And for that, I needed titles and tangibles.
    2. In terms of both conscious and unconscious, I decided on this aspect of the definition because my approach could only make assumptions based on my artifacts, and I do not feel confident that I could always distinguish between these uses.

[Data set]

  1. I could go into more detail about this set, but the basics.
  2. I decided to note the dates, as new texts are always being added.
  3. I decided on this fandom and portal as I am most familiar with both, and for the sort of pilot study that this is, this seemed suitable. It is also common in fandom work to work most closely with the communities and fandoms that one knows best in light of proper representation.
  4. To gather the data, I limited my search to texts based of Tolkien’s original Lord of the Rings work, including the Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, and The Silmarillion.
  5. I wanted to avoid mixed fandoms, as these might be overly complicated. Again, limitations may exist with this bounding, but I sought focus, accuracy, and representation over generalizability.
  6. Three sites or unites of analysis existed, as I wanted to get a full sense of the scope. Most fanfictions, in this context, exist with these three elements and scholarship seems to recognize the importance of all three.

[Author note]

  1. While the story and comments section are quite straight forward, many of you may be less familiar with the author note.
  2. I mentioned this earlier in light of the work of Herzog.
  3. Fairly common—almost to a universal degree—the author note acts as a spot for the author to address the reader directly.
  4. As this example shows, the A/N as it is often called is generally conversational. Sometimes it gives a summary. It may situate it within the larger community as this one does. It may point to other fan works. It may also thank other writers for the help or inspiration they gave. It may set up the position of the author, as this one does, which the work of Rebecca Black and others have highlighted can be important for ELL writers. In my data set author notes also talked a lot about lives, acting as a sort of textual water cooler. They also provided excuses for late work.


  1. My methods were largely twofold: content analysis and a digital element. (I can discuss these more if people have questions)
  2. The Content analysis proved helpful for a way to code for the different qualitative practices I observed, but I could only do it for smaller units.
  3. For the stories, while many were short, others were hundreds of pages.
    1. Comparator is a basic “textual statistic” software available through TAPOR that allows one to compare basic elements of a text: common words, readability, etc., using a bag of words approach. Unfortunately I’m still sorting through this data.
    2. But I also used Plagiarism software. While I tried a few tools, I ended up using Turnitin, as it provided the most coverage.
    3. This allowed me to trace a web of syntactical similarities, but looking back on it, I’d like to find another way to do it, as I still feel morally mixed.
    4. I also created a rtf file with the Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and the Silmarillion that I called “The Canon” that I could search through and use for textual comparisons
  4. For the websphere analysis, I often had to follow hyperlinks on the texts to other sites, bounding my work by the sphere immediately connected to the artifact I was examining.
  5. As a more general note, these methods may seem a bit “kludgey” to use an Internet term—messy and unorthodox—but my goal for this project was to get the job done as best as I could with what I had. As I move forward, I hope to get more systematic, but as of now, I had a hard time tracking the intertextuality that I sought with my current skills and tools.
  6. Moving forward, I often found myself readjusting and tempering my methods to address new challenges.

[Findings 1]

  1. And so the findings. These are, hopefully quite straightforward.
  2. I often found these five practices of intertextuality. [Articulate from slide]
  3. The last two were often hard to distinguish, though I was largely envisioning a more academic distinction. I associated critiquing move with more of a Matthew Arnold “disinterestedness,” more about aesthetic gauging, with fanning occupying a more effusive enjoyment.
  4. However, I want to stress that I see no hierarchy here, nor can I speak that fans themselves would distinguish these practices.

[Findings 2]

  1. Here, the main thing I want to stress is the range of materials.

[A/N Example]

  1. Example 1: one sees the writer defending a textual move by invoking Tolkien’s original work. It has a scholarly, authoritative tone, including the use of the parenthetical citation. Here, the writer is actually trying to reproduce the author’s original intention, a practice I found in many of these defensive uses of intertextuality, even when doing so possibly reified more conservative views of gender.
  2. Example 2: I coded as more collaborative. Here, the writer is constructing and giving credit to a fellow fan, who is writing a new series based off this work, a common practice. One may also ascribe some fanning elements as well, as the praise is pretty positive. But I found this sort of rhetoric quite common, so I did not code for it.

[Wiki example]

This is just a quick example of the main Lord of the Rings fanwiki, which often got cited. When it was, it was usually used defensively, to justify a particular interpretation. But it was not the only one. On the whole, I found about three main resources popping up in this data set. As with all wikis, these are all co-created by fans and tend to be quite ubiquitous.

[Comments Examples]

  1. Example one: Critiquing
  2. Example 2: Fanning

[Story Example]

  1. Similar quotes, shifted context


  1. In terms of resistance:
    1. In this data set, traditional notions of resistance do not seem to be as apparent.
    2. Elements existed somewhat: I saw the occasional reference to copyright, the general tactics of queering texts through slash, changing the genders of male characters into women, and the assertion of individual interpretation over the original work.
    3. However, many of these potential examples would still fall under the complications offered by scholars in the field.
    4. Many artifacts also stressed the role of the original materials in many cases.
    5. And finally, The intention of these writers was often hard to read, with the data largely revealing an apolitical approach. In other words, many writers seemed to assume or not consider the resistant quality of their work in these artifacts.
  2. These observations raise the question of intention, which would require interviews or more ethnographic approaches outside the range of this study.
  3. However, tensions did exist between interpretations and texts, and common practices arose to address these tensions. Author notes defended their decisions, often against other fans or diversions from the original. Fans themselves asserted their own right to interpretation against potential conflicts.
  4. Moreover, one can wonder whether intention is necessary when considering the friction between circulating documents in this rhetorical ecology. In other words, the friction itself seems to be an integral part of intertextual writing, where largely co-independent texts and authors may rub against one another.
  5. In terms of intertextuality: While mostly descriptive and limited in context, I think this study points to the rich practices and literacies that exist in these spaces, showing how many of these fanfictions act as complex commons or interfaces for intertextuality and hypertextuality, meeting-places for machine, text, and community.
  6. Moreover, I want to explore further how many of these more traditional terms and theories, like intertextuality, operate more fully in born-digital texts or in the complex media ecologies that circulate in these spaces.
  7. And finally, as I was working on this paper, NPR released a piece about Tolkien’s own influence from Finnish mythology. Indeed with his well-known links to Norse mythology and Anglo-Saxon lore—to Beowulf and Old English—Barthes expansive sense of intertextuality as unbounded and deep seems particularly relevant.

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