Amateur mythographies: Fan fiction and the myth of myth
AbstractThis paper draws on classical scholarship on myth in order to critically examine three ways in which scholars and fans have articulated a relationship between fan fiction and myth. These are (1) the notion of fan fiction as a form of folk culture, reclaiming popular story from corporate ownership; (2) the notion of myth as counterhegemonic, often feminist, discourse; (3) the notion of myth as a commons of story and a universal story world. I argue that the first notion depends on an implicit primitivizing of fan fiction and myth, which draws ultimately on the work of Gottfried von Herder in the 18th century and limits our ability to produce historically and politically nuanced understandings of fan fiction. The second notion, which is visible in the work of Henry Jenkins and Constance Penley, is more helpful because of its attention to the politics of narration. However, it is the third model of myth, as a universal story world, where we find the richest crossover between fan fiction's creative power and contemporary classical scholarship on myth, especially in relation to Sarah Iles Johnston's analysis of hyperserial narrative. I demonstrate this through some close readings of fan fiction from the Greek and Roman Mythology fandom on Archive of Our Own. I conclude the paper by extending Johnston's arguments to show that fan-fictional hyperseriality, specifically, can be seen as mythic because it intervenes not only in the narrative worlds of its source materials but also in the social world of its telling.
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