Including new media adaptations and fan fiction writing in the college literature classroom

Erika Romero

St. Thomas University, Miami Gardens, Florida, United States

[0.1] AbstractFan artworks may be used to engage college students in their literature courses. One such course is described herein, focused on reading, watching, and analyzing children's and young adult literature and their new media adaptations, including fan fiction, fan vids, and fan art. Rather than only requiring academic writing assignments, students were also assigned the task of writing their own piece of fan fiction in response to a course text.

[0.2] KeywordsChildren's literature; Harry Potter; Vampire Diaries; YA literature; Young adult literature

Romero, Erika. 2021. "Including New Media Adaptations and Fan Fiction Writing in the College Literature Classroom." In "Fan Studies Pedagogies," edited by Paul Booth and Regina Yung Lee, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 35.

1. Introduction

[1.1] As someone who often watches the movie or television show before reading the book and began reading online Harry Potter fan fiction on over fifteen years ago while waiting to see if Harry and Hermione would end up together, I knew that I wanted to demonstrate the power of reading, watching, analyzing, and creating new media adaptations of literary texts while teaching my internship course at Illinois State University (note 1). Including the analysis of new media genres such as movies and television programs in the literature classroom, I argued in my internship paper, gives students a better opportunity to understand the connection between literature and popular culture. It also demonstrates how critically engaging with these texts creates a better grasp of how students' own values and beliefs are often influenced by these supposedly "just fun to watch" texts. "In cultures saturated with media, fans authorize themselves to critically respond and engage with their chosen texts" (Howell 2018, 2), and I wanted to create a class environment in which students understood that critical and engaging responses to the texts could be a form of empowerment rather than merely a task to complete to earn the grade they want.

[1.2] As literary adaptations commonly written and posted online by nonprofessional writers, fan fiction in particular can provide college students with avenues to discuss ideas like authoring a text versus owning the copyright of a text, the authorial intentions of the writer versus the reader's interpretational response, and the genre conventions of collaborative writing and digital narratives. Paul Booth states that "many students are wedded to the auteur theory, but by 'acting' like a fan in the safety of the classroom, they start to see how active reading constructs meaning as well" (2012, 177). As such, if instructors assign the reading and writing of fan fiction as part of their course curriculum, their students can grapple with their own critical reading and writing skills through a genre that (1) requires careful knowledge of published literary texts and (2) creates avenues for inspiring enjoyable and empowering interactions with the source texts. These basic premises are why I designed my fall 2016 version of the undergraduate course "Literary Narratives" as "Analyzing Children's and YA Literary Adaptations: Books, Movies, TV Shows, and Fanworks."

[1.3] As a course thematically focused on children's and young adult literary adaptations, my internship showcased multiple approaches to teaching literature using a combination of print and new media texts. My experience with this course has given me a plethora of (institutional review board-approved) data about the effects of reading, watching, and creating adaptations in the college undergraduate classroom. In this article, I provide details of my internship course design, experience, and results in order to demonstrate how studying new media adaptations and writing their own adaptations (aka fan fiction) helped my students improve their ability to critically and creatively experience the literary texts that surround them every day and influence their perspective on the world around them. To actualize these learning outcomes in my students—to show them how "by working within fandom itself, students gain valuable insights that they can turn around and apply to their own lives as well" (Booth 2012, 185)—I assigned them the tasks of writing a formal literary analysis paper and a piece of fan fiction based on our course texts. Alongside these assignments, students also wrote reflective narratives about their composition processes in order to strengthen their awareness of the critical and creative nature of their work in the course. Before I describe these assignments and student responses to them, I will first provide important contextual information about the course and the students who took it.

2. Course context

[2.1] Understanding the context in which I found myself when teaching my internship is an essential element of understanding the dynamic of this classroom experience. In the English department at Illinois State University (ISU), doctoral students are required to design and teach a course tied to their research area as the "internship" portion of their comprehensive exams. The course I chose to teach was a standard undergraduate course, Literary Narratives. This course is described in the English department's course catalog simply as "critical reading and analysis of a variety of literary narratives that reflect on human experience." A general education course, Literary Narratives is capped at thirty students and is filled with non-English majors who need to meet the "Language in the Humanities" requirement. I titled my section of the course, "Analyzing Children's and YA Literary Adaptations: Books, Movies, TV Shows, and Fanworks," and provided a brief description in the course catalog.

[2.2] However, because I was given my teaching assignment late into the spring 2016 semester, my section had a full roster before my description was added to the catalog. As such, my students did not choose to take a children's and young adult (YA) literature course or a fandom course; rather, they chose to take a literature general education course required of them based only on the basic, one-sentence description of what the course would include. Students with an English major or minor do not receive credit toward their degrees for completing this course, so my students came from across many majors available at Illinois State University. Table 1 details this diverse educational demographic with information from the twenty-seven students who consented to take part in my research study (note 2).

Table 1. Student educational demographics in an internship course

No. of StudentsStudent College at ISU
9Arts and Sciences
2Applied Science and Technology

Source: Faculty Center Roster.

[2.3] A third of my students had majors located in the same college as the English department, but a survey I had my students complete during the first week of class quickly made evident that in general these students had little interest in or experience with analyzing literary texts or writing their own short stories. Furthermore, as attendees of a fall semester general education course, my students ranged from first-year students just beginning their college experience to seniors anticipating the moment they would complete their coursework and move on to the next stage of their lives. In regard to my research study, this spectrum of student year levels provided me with a wide demographic of students to work with in exploring their experience with learning literary terminology, practicing analytical, metacognitive, and creative writing skills, taking part in fandom practices, and reading/watching children's and young adult texts and their various adaptations.

[2.4] The next section depicts in broad strokes the overall design of my internship, including the rationale for my heavy emphasis on the importance of studying adaptations and composing fan fiction. I will then transition to specific examples of the knowledge and skills these students gained through our study of children's and YA books, movies, television shows, and fan works using excerpts from the reflective writing assignments the students completed in the course, before briefly concluding with a call to action for any English college instructors who have yet to buy in to using new media adaptations and fan fiction in their classrooms. This call is especially relevant for instructors who already know the pedagogical benefits of teaching children's and young adult literature but have not taken the farther step of acknowledging the pedagogical power of their new media adaptations.

[2.5] Because "research into fandom can become a path to understanding and augmenting research into media and cultural literacy" (Booth 2012, 174), I focused a large portion of my internship on analyzing and creating fan works. These texts, alongside Hollywood films and network television shows, demonstrate to students the power and influence of the popular culture texts that surround their experiences outside the classroom. Improving students' media and cultural literacy is becoming a common goal of twenty-first-century English college courses, so a literature course that features new media analysis and creation fits well with this important learning objective.

3. Course design

[3.1] As this course centered not only on literary narratives but also on their adaptations, I divided the semester into two major units, with a three-week introductory period leading to the first unit and a two-week wrap-up period to end the semester. I limited my selection of class materials to two source novels, Vampire Diaries: The Awakening (Smith 1991) and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Rowling 1998), each of which provided the foundation for the two major class units. The reading of each first novel of these two series was followed by watching a multimodal new media adaptation, then reading, watching, and viewing a variety of fan fiction, fan videos, and fan art.

[3.2] This narrow scope in required texts was inspired in part by Gillian Steinberg's article on her "new model" of introductory English courses, in which she states, "Coverage should not be our goal for an introductory course, which can reasonably and meaningfully teach students both how to read literature and why to read it but cannot, in a semester, make them read all of it" (2013, 481). Furthermore, my decision to focus the course on these particular source series was influenced by their meeting of specific criteria: they both have an unusually complex web of texts and adaptations that surround them. This characteristic of both series creates the opportunity to demonstrate to students how literary texts are affected by the adaptation process and how they can respond to these texts and their changes via formal and creative writing.

[3.3] The first major unit my students completed was the Vampire Diaries unit, which included reading the first novel, watching the first six episodes of the television series adaptation, reading four pieces of fan fiction, watching three fan videos, and viewing a page of Google images fan art. Each section of the unit was preceded by a short PowerPoint lecture that provided contextual information on the book series, the television series, and the fan works, respectively. In the first lecture of this unit, I explained that the complex publishing history of the books was the reason I chose to spend four weeks on this young adult series. Put briefly, L. J. Smith, the author of the first seven (of thirteen) Vampire Diaries novels, was fired from writing the series and replaced by a ghostwriter who completed the final six books. Smith's name, however, remains prominent on the covers of books eight through thirteen, and she is also acknowledged in the credits of the Vampire Diaries (CW, 2009–2017) television series. In 2013, when Amazon launched Kindle Worlds, Smith continued her own version of the series via this new publishing avenue, which basically allowed fans to sell their fan fiction based on certain storyworlds because of the licensing agreements Amazon had with the creators and publishers. As such, Smith's decision to publish through Kindle Worlds put her in the strange position of being both the original author of the series and a fan writer of the series, a situation that powerfully demonstrated the complexity of authorship and copyright to literature students. With the closing of this publishing system, it seems Smith will be unable to finish her continuation of the series.

[3.4] Additionally, the television series Vampire Diaries is a highly divergent adaptation of its source material, portraying many storylines and characters that never appear in the book series (note 3). Comparing and contrasting the source text to its TV adaptation, therefore, provided ample material for a robust discussion on how different creators, media, and target audiences have influenced the narratives portrayed in these series. Finally, the fan works created and published online for this series are largely inspired by the television show adaptation rather than the original books. Analyzing this imbalance in reader/watcher response explicitly demonstrates why new media adaptations should not be shunned from courses that are designed to study the influence and effect of the literary texts that they explore. All of these facts inspired my decision to use this series in my course.

[3.5] The complicated expansion of the Vampire Diaries book series through its various adaptations can powerfully illustrate to students how young adult literary narratives are valuable texts to study not just in their original print form but in relationship to their new media forms as well. This television series is a particularly strong choice for a course of this kind because "Vampire Diaries offers an indicative case study through which to understand the intersections between horror and the teen genre, notions of quality and cultural value, and the enduring appeal of the vampire genre in contemporary popular culture" (Williams 2013, 97). This series provides a fascinating avenue for discussing concepts tied to adaptation studies, but it is also full of material that lends itself to studies of multiple literary genres, audience response, and popular culture. By having students study this web of texts in the first literary unit of the course, my intention was to complicate any assumptions that my students might have had about YA literature, television shows, fandom, and adaptations when they first entered my classroom.

[3.6] The second literary unit was designed to amplify the above pedagogical effect. The Harry Potter books are another example of print texts that have inspired many forms of adaptations and can therefore be taught using a combination of print and new media texts. These include adaptations not only by thousands of devoted fans and published authors such as Rainbow Rowell, but also, as with the Vampire Diaries books, by the author herself. In contrast to Smith, however, J. K. Rowling has kept creative control over her series; she gave the final approval of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play's script and the Fantastic Beast movies' screenplays, and she created and oversaw the Harry Potter series' companion website, Pottermore.

[3.7] Studying the first Harry Potter novel alongside its movie adaptation in the second unit allows students to analyze the differences between television series and movie adaptations. With such a large pool of Harry Potter fan works to analyze, teaching this series as the second unit creates the opportunity to more robustly investigate this fan creation process. But, just as importantly, learning about this series from an adaptation studies perspective rather than as a standalone novel strengthens the students' understanding of how literature lives on and grows through the additional texts created after the publication of an original, canonical series. Having the Vampire Diaries publication and adaptation histories to juxtapose with the Harry Potter series leads to a critical examination of ownership versus authorship power dynamics regarding popular culture texts.

[3.8] In designing my internship, I intended for my students to have a better understanding of the creative and critical elements that are intrinsic to literary narratives, their various media adaptations, and literary analysis papers. To create this understanding, students had to write both a formal literary analysis paper and a piece of fan fiction. Students writing their own adaptations of the texts read in class is not a standard assignment included in literature courses. However, I agree with Veronica Austen's assertion that "when used in literature courses, creative writing assignments, thus, can heighten students' engagement with the literature that they are studying and, by extension, prepare them to become more active and competent scholars of literature" (2005, 139). In addition to strengthening the students' literary analysis skills via the writing of their own fan fiction, a primary goal of the course was to help enable my students to perceive adaptations as a form of creative critique, similar to the ways in which literary analysis papers are an academic genre of critique. As such, my students were required to complete a literary analysis paper for one major class unit and a literary adaptation (i.e., fan fiction) assignment for the other unit, each of which involved a guided self-assessment activity.

[3.9] Students were given the freedom to decide which assignment they wished to complete for each unit, so the first few introductory weeks of the semester included discussions of fandom and online fandom cultures. "Becoming familiar with fan communities and making clear to students how they operate and what their expectations are is essential if fan works are to be included as course materials" (Smol 2018, 19). My students were not required to respond to the fan works they read and watched on the platforms in which they are posted by fans, nor were they required to post their own fan fiction online. I explained this assignment design decision to the students through discussions of how online fandoms are communities that have their own terminology, cultures, and written and unwritten rules. The whole course was not devoted to learning about fandom, I explained, so a level of separation would be kept between the work the students were doing in the course and the fan works they were reading, watching, and analyzing. I welcomed the opportunity to meet with the students if they were interested in learning more, and I also provided optional supplementary reading for any students who wanted to immerse themselves more deeply in fandom.

[3.10] For the students to understand how to complete their longer writing assignments, we spent the majority of our class sessions discussing and analyzing the content and format of our required reading/watching list. To prepare for these larger projects, I included additional, shorter assignments in the course design to scaffold student learning. Almost daily notebook writing prompts inspired both creative and critical discussion points, with the students responding to questions like, "Which vampire reveal (book vs. show) did you enjoy more and why?" and "Why do you think the show producers changed Elena's little sister from the book into Jeremy the teenage brother?" Many of the individual and small group class activities were created to bolster this form of response to the class reading and viewing materials as well. Quizzes were assigned to prompt the students to complete the reading/viewing assignments in time for in-depth class discussions.

[3.11] A further purpose of these small activities was to strengthen the students' ability to practice close reading (and viewing), a skill needed throughout the course for the various major assignments. Theresa Tinkle and colleagues stated in their article on introductory English courses that "by concentrating on close reading, we invite students to learn transferable skills: the critical analysis of texts, the presentation of evidence, the correct use of disciplinary terms, and the ability to frame questions for research and analysis" (2013, 527). The notebook prompts often focused on the close reading of changes made in mainstream and fan-created adaptations for this exact reason. In a similar manner, the quizzes based on the adaptations always included multiple questions that pointed out major changes made to the characterizations, plot, or setting of the source text.

[3.12] In contrast to Tinkle et al. (2013), instead of using the quizzes just to show students "what they did not know, motivating them to raise questions in lecture and thereby facilitating additional instruction on challenging points" (509), I also designed them as starting points for class discussions on the intertextuality between the materials read and watched throughout the unit as a whole. For example, in our Vampire Diaries television series quiz, I asked, "How does Elena discover Stefan is a vampire?" In the novel, Elena happens to walk in on Stefan drinking blood from a bird he has killed. In the show, Elena witnessed multiple strange occurrences surrounding Stefan which led her to investigate him and discover he is a vampire. By including questions like this one in the quizzes and going over each question immediately after the students turned in their answers, the class always had a starting point for analyzing the dynamic relationship between characterization, plot, and/or setting in the two canonical series and their adaptations.

[3.13] These activities were intended to increase student engagement in the discussions, as they provided students with material to which to refer during the verbal whole-class discussions. Students did not have to rely on their ability to produce spur-of-the-moment analysis immediately after our classes began; they had writing prompts and quizzes to inspire their future class discussion interactions. Furthermore, these small activities provided scaffolding for a larger assignment, the Reading/Viewing Write-ups, a major class project I designed to be one of the primary ways of comprehensively assessing the students' success in achieving various course goals. In my final section of this article, I reflect on this particular assignment and the fan fiction project using samples of my students' writing to showcase the benefits of including new media adaptations alongside their print source texts in the college classroom.

4. Course experience

[4.1] Because the majority of our class time was filled with discussions of our required texts, I promoted active reading/watching of these materials at home through the Write-ups homework assignment. This assignment took place throughout the two literary units of the internship (note 4). Each of the original ten Write-up prompts required students to either integrate class terminology into their scholarly response to the reading/viewing material or to analyze this material on a level most general education students would not feel necessary to consider when encountering these texts outside of the English classroom.

[4.2] Students were required to submit individual Write-ups before we discussed the specific material for each Write-up prompt in class. For example, if students chose to complete the Write-up that asked them to compare and contrast the Vampire Diaries novel and television episodes watched for class, they needed to submit their response to that prompt before we discussed the episodes in class. Students received a list of all the Write-up prompts and their individual deadlines during the first week of the semester, but they were only required to complete five of the ten Write-ups so that they could have ample time to work on their other projects like the literary analysis paper and fan fiction. I also gave students the opportunity to complete additional Write-ups as a way to mitigate lower grades received for prompts that they might have struggled with due to misunderstanding this potentially new approach to analyzing literary narratives and their adaptations.

[4.3] Requiring the completion of only half of these prompts lessened my own workload, which provided me with time to write and send feedback to my students on each prompt before the deadline of the one that followed. Most prompts called for a response of at least one to two pages, though this length could increase depending on how engaged the students were in their responses. This assignment, along with the two major writing assignments and the many minor in-class activities, formed 90 percent of the students' course grades.

[4.4] The final 10 percent of the course grade was based on the class zine I constructed at the end of the semester using the students' revised papers, fan fiction, and extra credit fan art. After I constructed the zine PDF, I assigned my students to read it and vote for various awards, such as "Best Opening Line," "Best Plot Twist," and "Best Argument." This activity during the final week of class allowed students to experience the incredible work created by their peers and celebrate their work through a small awards ceremony and discussion of the zine readings and artwork.

[4.5] I approached the lessons on teaching students how to analyze Vampire Diaries and Harry Potter from the perspective that my students first needed a vocabulary with which to work, along with a basic theoretical understanding of literary narratives, adaptations, and fandoms. As such, after the introductory first week of the semester, the following two weeks were devoted to helping students learn literary terminology, such as the terms "foreshadowing," "point of view," "characterization," and "tone," along with fandom terminology with terms like "slash," "alternate universe," and "ship." Alongside the list of terms assigned during these weeks, I also required students to read selections from Toby Fulwiler and William Stephany's English Studies: Reading, Writing, and Interpreting Texts (2002) and Linda Hutcheon's A Theory of Adaptation (2013), along with an article I had written on the genre conventions of fan fiction in ISU's Grassroots Writing Research Journal. These texts provided the students with basic adaptation and fandom studies terminology and concepts without going into a level of detail that would confuse them in an introductory level classroom.

[4.6] By limiting the amount of fiction the students read during these two weeks to one short story—"Midnights" (2014) by Rainbow Rowell—my intention was for students to practice the application of the literary terms and theory on a short text before the first major literary unit began. Once the Vampire Diaries unit started, the first few Write-ups tested the success of this course design. The first two required students to provide examples of characterization, foils, tone, foreshadowing, symbols, and narrative structure in the The Awakening and the first two episodes of the television show Vampire Diaries, respectively. The third tasked students with identifying changes made to the source text in its adaptation as well as articulating the potential reasons for these changes.

[4.7] Nineteen students completed at least one of these three Write-ups. Three examples of student responses showcase the analytical work asked of them through these assignment prompts (note 5).

[4.8] One example of foreshadowing is the ring that Damon and Stefan wear. The producers really emphasize that they each have this special ring, but do not say why. Elena even asks Stefan why he won't take it off at the car wash, but he doesn't give the real reason … Because the producers emphasized it, it was really foreshadowing that something was going to happen when one of the brothers wasn't wearing the ring. (Sarah 2016)

[4.9] In the show Stephen lives in the boarding house with another guy who he calls his Uncle Zach, but in the book he lives with an elderly lady. This change was made to appeal to a teenage female audience. By putting another young, attractive male in the show it will bring in more of a teenage girl audience. (Ashley 2016)

[4.10] Bonnie … in "The Awakening" says she is a psychic/witch descending from the Druids. In the TV adaptation, Bonnie says she is a witch descending from Salem. This could have been done because Salem and witchcraft are something that go hand in hand, and is pretty widely known, Druids on the other hand are less talked about in media or other movies/show. In order to have Bonnie's powers be better and more quickly understood by the shows audience the writers may have chosen to change her family lineage. (Cassie 2016a)

[4.11] These responses demonstrate the students' strong grasp of how the class terminology could be applied when analyzing the Vampire Diaries texts, along with their ability to consider genre-based reasons (such as audience response) when analyzing why certain changes were made in this television show. These responses are not the only ones that demonstrate how starting with vocabulary and theory was beneficial to student learning, but it should be noted that there were also answers in these Write-ups that suggested the two weeks were not enough preparation for these tasks.

[4.12] The Write-up assignment gave students ten diverse opportunities to practice articulating their analysis of our class texts. Because these activities were heavily guided by where I wanted the students to focus their attention, I designed their literary analysis paper and fan fiction projects using a much more open approach. Students had to complete one of these two activities in each literary unit, but they could choose which project they wished to complete for each. Their paper had to have an argumentative thesis, and their fan fiction had to include either a character or setting from our class texts, but the only other major requirement I gave my students for these projects was a minimum page length. Unlike the Write-ups, students had almost total control over the content of these two activities. To help students with their papers, I had a two-week lesson on writing literary analysis, and I also assigned supplementary academic articles about the material we were reading and watching to give them a better sense of how academic arguments are structured. To help with their fan fiction, I made the reading and watching of fan works such as fan fiction, fan art, and fan videos a major element of my internship. In this way, students could gain a better sense of the varied ways readers and viewers have already responded critically and creatively to our source material (note 6).

[4.13] This approach to teaching an introductory English course is not without precedent, especially for educators who include fandom studies in their classrooms. Katherine Anderson Howell's edited collection Fandom as Classroom Practice: A Teaching Guide, for example, explores almost a dozen different examples of educators using fandom to help students reach the learning outcomes of their courses. In her Transformative Works and Cultures article, Misty Krueger describes Draxler's model of "adaptation as interpretation" as connecting "creative writing with the practices of literary analysis, including close reading, critical thinking, and contextual and cultural analysis" (2015, ¶ 2.1). One way she makes this connection evident to her students is through an adaptation assignment, in which students must write an adaptation along with a reflective introduction to it. In a similar manner, I called on my students to interact with our source material via the creative genre of the short story, with the additional option of creating a piece of visual art or a video in response to the readings as well. Both these assignments included a reflective statement about their projects, as did their analysis paper assignment.

[4.14] Few students regarded their fan fiction as critical works by the end of the semester, and only a handful of students felt that there were connections between writing a literary analysis paper and writing an adaptation. In regard to the reflection question asking how writing one major assignment affected the other (whether fan fiction to paper, or paper to fan fiction), most students responded like Amy, who stated, "I don't think writing my adaptation really affected my writing of my paper since they are very different concepts (one being creative and the other being academic)" (2016). Nevertheless, there were four study participants who stated that writing the fan fiction first affected their paper, and two who stated that writing their paper first affected their fan fiction. In excerpts from these four student reflections, the first two responses are from students who wrote their fan fiction first, and the later two are by students who wrote the analysis paper first.

[4.15] Writing an adaptation before did affect my approach because I was more aware of literary elements and found ways to include them in my paper. By having to add in literary elements into my adaptation, I learned in more detail what each element was and it was easier to pick them out in the book. (Dana 2016)

[4.16] Since the literary analysis paper focused more on the hidden elements found with in a piece of writing, I feel like I was more comfortable to identify those by already writing an adaptation myself … By writing that before my literary analysis, this helped me better understand that even though the hidden arguments aren't always obvious, that with enough support and explanation that you could find arguments pertaining to almost anything. By first understanding the structure of writing a literary narrative, this allowed me to see how a story can contain hidden meanings. (Sasha 2016)

[4.17] I do think it [writing the paper first] affected my experience, but in a positive way. I was able to think more deeply about what I was writing and make sure there was depth to it, instead of it just being surface leveled. (Kristine 2016)

[4.18] Now that I have learned how to write analysis papers I find myself analyzing everything that I read and watch. I question why the author chose to do things the way they did or why producers don't include certain aspects from the original text if it was an adaptation and because of that I was more cautious when writing my adaption. I tried to really think about why I was making the changes I was making and how it would later affect the plot line … I think that if I had written my adaption first I wouldn't have made the changes I did because they wouldn't have mattered to me before. (Susan 2016)

[4.19] These reflective statements demonstrate a strong understanding of the intimate connections between writing formal academic papers and creating literary adaptations like fan fiction. Though only six of my students were able to clearly see these connections, it is imperative to note that the concept of creative works as critical in nature was not formally introduced until late in the semester, during the Harry Potter unit.

[4.20] As a general education course, the student demographic was one that required introducing elementary facets of analyzing literary narratives before more in-depth critical work was attempted. I introduced the more layered understanding of adaptations as not simply creative responses to a source text but critical ones as well only after the students had been given ample time to practice this analytical form of reading and watching the class materials. Refraining from sharing this information with the students until the last few weeks of the semester was a major element of my course design, as I was interested in seeing whether the students could recognize the critical work they were doing in their adaptations without this perspective being stated outright before they wrote their adaptations. I wished to discover whether students understood that their adaptations or fan fiction were not simply "subjective, fluid interpretation of the readings [or viewings]," but also ways of "exhibiting in-depth literary analysis … [and] incorporating the writing process through the use of critique and revision" (Mathew and Adams 2009, 36).

[4.21] To help the students conceptualize this approach to interpreting fan adaptations during the final weeks of class, I had them read articles like Sarah Winters's "Streaming Scholarship: Using Fan Vids to Teach Harry Potter" (2014), along with Angela Thomas's article "Fan Fiction Online: Engagement, Critical Response and Affective Play through Writing" (2016). Winters's article was particularly relevant not only for its focus on Harry Potter fan vids—the source material used in the second literary unit of the semester—but also for its clearly stated argument that "[fan] vids perform a traditional task in an innovative medium: vids carry out traditional literary analysis in the form of close reading, in particular the use of detail from a text as evidence to support an argument" (2014, 252). Thomas's article helped me articulate this argument to my students with its focus on forms of fan engagement outside of fan vids, with statements such as "in addition to fan fiction providing spaces for critical responses to texts through writing, these spaces also serve an important role for exploring issues of identity and empowerment" (2006, 236). By including articles from educators other than myself that express this view of fan works as more than just a creative response to source material, I was able to demonstrate to my students that there is a body of academic scholarship that supports the interpretation of fan works as a form of creative criticism.

[4.22] By introducing the concept of fan fiction as a form of critical creative writing so late into the semester, I designed a classroom environment that asked students to create connections between analytical writing and creative writing on their own, before I formally worked to make this aspect of writing adaptations clear to them. More specifically, I overtly introduced this specific element of fandom research and the concept of adaptation as a critical creative response during the same week that the final major writing assignment was due. Before this point, we had already discussed the potential authorial intentions behind over a dozen pieces of fan fiction. The students had been analyzing the potential reasons behind changes in characterization, plot, and setting, as well as articulating their own personal responses to these fan works and the canonical texts on which they are based. Altogether, this course design gave students over two months to (1) make their own intuitive leap into understanding adaptations as critical in nature and (2) practice their verbal and written literary analysis skills using more than just novels. The students had control over both these learning outcomes by completing the course activities like the writing prompts and Write-ups that required creative and critical thinking and by writing in response to the materials we read and watched.

[4.23] The students seemed to really enjoy the opportunity to analyze children's and young adult novels, movies, and TV show adaptations, and fan fiction, fan videos, and fan art, and they created many robust class discussions and assignment responses throughout the semester. But while I wanted students to have the time and opportunity to discover how adaptations are not just creative but critical in nature and how formal literary analysis has its own creative aspects, I did not want students to leave the course without these connections being formally articulated and discussed in our classroom. Many students chose to write their fan fiction earlier in the semester, so by the next to last week of class, when the final major writing assignment was due, most students were working on writing their formal literary analysis paper. This focus on critical writing by all but a handful of students made discussing the critical nature of fan fiction all the more relevant because it provided the opportunity to show the students that they had all already practiced a long form of critical writing, even if they had chosen to complete their fan fiction assignment first.

[4.24] All but a few students struggled to perceive the critical aspects of creative writing and the creative aspects of analytical writing, though they simultaneously acknowledged that we had spent a large portion of the semester discussing how the fan writers and artists were responding to and commenting on their favorite or least favorite elements of the source text by creating their own fan fiction, art, or videos rather than academic papers. I was not surprised that so few students saw the intrinsic ties between these forms of writing; even still today "the artificial divide between creative writing and academic prose" is still prevalent in the English Studies curriculum (Austen 2005, 139). Outside the classroom setting, a fan is much more likely to turn to creative expression—rather than academic writing—to respond to and critique a text they enjoy. Reading academic books and journal articles is not exactly considered a pleasurable pastime by fan writers and readers. A fan writer is best served, therefore, by using fan fiction, fan art, or fan videos as the form in which to share their thoughts on their fan object. In contrast, inside the classroom, a student is more likely to assume that academic writing is the only option for creating a critical statement about a text they have read or watched.

[4.25] Creative writing is too rarely acknowledged as a valuable form of analytical writing in the literature classroom for students to easily believe otherwise. Because one's environment is so critical to choosing the writing they perceive as acceptable for achieving their goals, it is imperative that instructors of English Studies courses seriously consider how they can empower their students by including creative writing projects—like writing a piece of fan fiction—in their classrooms. Furthermore, instructors will likely need to challenge themselves to see the critical potential in creative writing and help their students see this potential as well. If I am fortunate enough to teach a version of this course again, I plan to place the connection between creative and critical writing as a foundational concept of the course. By introducing this aspect of writing at the beginning of the course rather than waiting to formally acknowledge it at the end, I can gain insight into how strongly students internalize this understanding of fan fiction and other adaptations when using a more prescriptive approach to teaching this lesson. A comparative study of these two course designs could help strengthen future approaches to teaching this facet of fandom and writing pedagogy.

5. Conclusion

[5.1] In "Children's and Young Adult (YA) Literary Adaptations: Analyzing Books, Movies, Television Shows, and Fan Texts," I sought to teach general education students how they could use not only academic genres like the literary analysis paper to critique literary narratives but also creative genres like fan fiction to achieve a similar goal. Courses focused on teaching students how to analyze literature tend to require students to write multiple, formal analysis papers to demonstrate their ability to critically read and respond to the required texts. While I did require my students to write an argumentative literary analysis paper—along with an additional reflective piece about their writing process for this assignment—I challenged this pedagogical status quo by also requiring them to compose their own literary adaptation in response to one of our literary unit texts. Including this twofold approach when asking students to respond via writing to our class's source materials enabled my students to learn not only how to compose a formal literary argument but also how to read literary adaptations not simply as creative additions to source material but also as critiques. Through scaffolding these assignments with Write-ups, notebook writing prompts, reading/watching quizzes, and class discussions, I gave the students the opportunity to practice not just their academic and creative writing skills but also their ability to critically engage with the texts they encounter in their everyday lives.

[5.2] The number of adaptations released in theaters, on television, via laptop screens, and in bookstores seems to increase every year. By designing a short adaptations unit for their college courses, English instructors across various fields of study can encourage their students to grapple with the complex relationships between source text and adaptations. Considering the percentage of popular culture adaptations and fandoms that are based on children's and young adult texts, instructors in this literary specialization in particular can enrich their students' learning experiences for many semesters to come.

6. Notes

1. Illinois State University's motto is "Gladly We Learn and Teach." Unsurprisingly, as part of earning my PhD in English, I was required to design and teach an undergraduate course of my choice during my third year in the program. This internship often includes going through the institutional review board approval process so that student data from the course can be used in our dissertations (which must include at least one chapter focused on pedagogy).

2. One student dropped the course midway through the semester due to a personal matter. From this point forward, I will use "students" to refer only to those who consented to take part in my research study.

3. During the Vampire Diaries unit, the term "skeleton adaptation" was used in one of the supplemental readings. It is defined as "when plot elements are so far removed from the source material that the originals seem to become mere skeletons of the original plot" (CalvinLaw 2015).

4. The first mini unit of the course focused solely on theory. It was followed by two literary units, Vampire Diaries and Harry Potter, and a final mini-unit based on the Class Zine activity. A two-week lesson on writing literary analysis was inserted between the two literary units.

5. The students I cite have been given pseudonyms in order to protect their privacy.

6. I purposely chose fan works that demonstrated overt critical responses to the source texts. Henry Jenkins, a media studies scholar, has stated that all fan texts are critical in nature: "Fandom's very existence represents a critique of conventional forms of consumer culture" (2013, 283). As this understanding of literary adaptations as critical works is not the standard assumption of students, especially by those outside of the English major, I refrained from using fan texts that would require a more advanced knowledge of how to deeply analyze literary narratives. For an example of what I am describing as "overt critical responses," see the fan fiction "Disillusion" (asagi5 2015).

7. References

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