Fan studies pedagogies

Paul Booth

DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois, United States

Regina Yung Lee

University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, United States

[0.1] AbstractEditorial to "Fan Studies Pedagogies," edited by Paul Booth and Regina Yung Lee, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 35 (March 15, 2021).

[0.2] KeywordsAcafan; Covid-19; Learning; Multimedia; Pedagogy; Student; Teaching; Writing

Booth, Paul, and Regina Yung Lee. 2021. "Fan Studies Pedagogies" [editorial]. In "Fan Studies Pedagogies," edited by Paul Booth and Regina Yung Lee, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 35. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2021.2131.

1. Introduction

[1.1] Fandom and teaching are intimately interlinked. The expansion of fan studies as an academic field and the growing visibility of fandom and fan activities in popular culture have led to more instructors using students' fandoms in the classroom as well as teaching fan studies as a topic in and of itself (Booth 2015; Howell 2018). Yet because fan studies is often a moving target—refusing in many instances to become "disciplined" enough to match traditional academic units—it becomes imperative to discuss the various contributions, methodologies, ethics, and lacunae of the field in a classroom setting. And as fandom is also becoming an increasingly talked-about identity, its presence in the classroom requires critique.

[1.2] The specific pedagogical needs of the fan studies classroom require sustained interrogation because of the changing field of fan studies itself. Discussions of the power relations between fans and academics (Jones 2016; Busse 2017) joins a necessary interpolation of transnational and intersectional analyses surging through the discipline (Morimoto 2017; Pande 2018), which becomes reflected in learning community dynamics and pedagogical delivery. This special issue brings together the historical and institutional strands of fandom pedagogies, foregrounding what and how fans teach each other to do, and examining how these methodologies and their products enter and enervate academic learning spaces.

[1.3] This special issue focuses on the specific needs of the fan studies classroom, as well as the pedagogical methods, styles, contributions, and concerns when coursework is drawn from a fan studies background. The unique multidisciplinary structure of fan studies (Largent, Popova, and Vist 2020) is reflected in the variety of topics, methods, and case studies in this issue. Although this issue was put together before the Covid-19 pandemic forced teaching across the board to move online and into new spaces, the teaching methods and philosophies discussed in this issue have increasingly become de rigueur for the contemporary classroom. Indeed, types of fannish teaching styles—asynchronous, peer-to-peer, and so on—may become a standardized method of instruction even after the pandemic, at which point the questions of power, leisure, appropriation, and ecstatic response central to fan pedagogies become fundamentally important.

[1.4] We shadow this move through our inclusion of virtual posters and presentations, sourced from the Fan Studies Network North America (FSNNA) conference held October 13–17, 2020, which took place primarily on Zoom and Discord. The deployment of Discord for fan studies purposes is itself a fraught endeavor, both hearkening back to the days of open message boards and—because of the platform's lax censuring of hate speech, akin to those of platforms such as Reddit and Twitter—also taking place in the same virtual space as virulently misogynist white supremacist conversations (McPherson 2018). To this end, the Multimedia section brings engaging scholarship from the 2020 FSNNA symposium to this issue, deploying fandom tactics of vidding for explicitly academic and pedagogical purposes, as well as engendering questions around transnational applications and demonstrating deep experiential gains. This online conference gave researchers and practitioners an opportunity to present their work in new formats, and we're thrilled to include some of that work here. Contemplating, analyzing, and engaging with these tricky interactional dynamics is also part of what fandom pedagogies can teach us to do.

2. Theory

[2.1] The special issue opens with four Theory articles that explore the relationship between traditional fan practices and classroom engagement.

[2.2] In "Fan Fiction Comments and Their Relationship to Classroom Learning," Lauren Rouse undertakes an innovative exploration of the comments section. Using qualitative data acquired from a web scraping tool, Rouse argues that the comments section is already a rich source of teaching and learning. Rouse ends by suggesting several methods for situating these forms of fan work along a continuum with more familiar academic forms of literary analysis. This article demonstrates the value of qualitative multimodal research for fan studies work, especially useful in collating information garnered from multiple sources online.

[2.3] In "Affirmational Canons and Transformative Literature: Notes on Teaching with Fandom," Linda Zygutis presents the first of two distinct approaches to classroom pedagogies that position fans as experts. Zygutis discusses the prohibitive expertise students see in the designation of "fan," then applies it to the complicated dynamics of importing a transformative positionality into the classroom. As Zygutis cogently argues, being fans requires that students believe themselves capable of expert interpretations of a text, a pedagogical position mostly denied to them. Then, students must be willing to consider their knowledge as not only valid but also applicable—that is, to move from amateur to auteur, and to effectively express their critical perspective. Zygutis's arguments posit navigating these contradictory learning postures as a pedagogical issue at the heart of the university's mission and purpose.

[2.4] In "Exploring Film History by Using Fandom as a Pedagogical Tool," Ellen Wright argues that significant pedagogical transformations occur in the affective shift from student to fan expert. Wright examines effects on student engagement resulting from forms of material culture play in the film history classroom and argues that by repositioning the student as fan, expertise becomes their defining mode of classroom operation. Focusing on physical paratexts results in critically engaged film history students, rendering the field permeable across lines of race, gender, and class.

[2.5] Finally, in "Acafan Identity, Communities of Practice, and Vocational Poaching," Ross Peter Garner provides an incisive discussion of the power dynamics underlying the acafan positionality, specifically surrounding deployment of fannish tactics as pedagogical methods. Garner offers an alternative form of tactical engagement through using deep industry knowledge amassed through fandom to equip students with relevant skills, a tactic that, following Henry Jenkins (1992), Garner calls vocational poaching. This potentially radical transformative pedagogical method speaks directly to the issues of asymmetrical access, power, and knowledge that enliven the entire issue.

3. Praxis

[3.1] This special issue's Praxis section focuses specifically on how fan-based practices can be integrated into classrooms and how pedagogies based on fandom can influence course content. Taken together, they offer a range of experiences, best practices, and innovative methodologies for engendering student participation and critical learning.

[3.2] Erika Romero's "Including New Media Adaptations and Fan Fiction Writing in the College Literature Classroom" opens the section by discussing how fan practices (like writing fan fiction, creating fan vids, and making fan art) became part of Romero's children's and young adult literary adaptations classes. Beyond studying fan works as crucial components of literary history, Romero's course also asked students to produce their own fan fiction as a final project, demonstrating how Romero's students were able to improve their critical and creative facilities through fandom.

[3.3] Keshia Mcclantoc also discusses the use of fan fiction in first-year writing classes in "Students as Fan, or Reinvention and Repurposing in First-Year Writing Classrooms," exploring the ways the practice benefits students' self-exploration and community building. Writing their own fan fiction allows Mcclantoc's students—many of whom are freshman and new to college writing—to address their own biases, identities, and motivations. This Praxis piece also includes assignment descriptions and excerpts from student papers.

[3.4] In "Evaluating Fandom: Using Blogging and a Grade Contract to Promote Fan Labor in the Classroom," Dominic J. Ashby takes us beyond the use of specific fan creative practices to explore how grade contracts emulate a form of fan-focused ethics. By integrating a grading policy that rewards students for the labor they put in rather than the quality of the work that was completed, students felt more free to experiment with their writing—and be rewarded for it. At the same time, the open course content of Ashby's film and anime course opened up discussions in the classroom about copyright, labor, and privacy—all concerns of both a new media and a fannish classroom.

[3.5] Connor Dyer's "Critical Pedagogy and Visual Culture Art Education in a Cosplay-Based Curriculum" brings cosplay to visual culture art education, a critical pedagogy focused on bringing popular culture to art education. Dyer, by articulating personal experiences as a crafter, demonstrates the artistic merits and influences of cosplay in the art education classroom and offers a curriculum for students to explore both their own relationship to popular culture and their identities as fans, students, and scholars.

[3.6] The Praxis section concludes with "Context, Cosplay, and (Re)configurations: Centering the Geek at the Heart of Science Fiction Pedagogy," which delves into the student experience in a fan-centric classroom. Instructor Kimon Keramidas and student/graduate Fiona Haborak both discuss their experiences in a science fiction course based around students' own fan interests. The class used discussions, website commentaries, "Geek of the Week" presentations, and final projects integrating nonlinear user-driven experiences to demonstrate more democratic classroom experiences.

4. Symposium

[4.1] The Symposium section for this special issue contains a set of compact papers dealing with fan production as models for often virtual pedagogical forms and one roundtable discussion of the pedagogical benefits of embodied fieldwork. This break reflects the particular historical situation of this special issue, as well as its assemblage across the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic. Thus, this section also overtly addresses fan studies topics of concern as reflected through the Covid-19 pandemic, with especially pertinent applications for asynchronous and potentially multilingual online learning.

[4.2] In "Second Language Vocabulary Acquisition through Fan Fiction on the Archive of Our Own," Júlia Zen Dariva opens the Symposium with a timely discussion of the fan fiction hosted at Archive of Our Own as a potentially powerful EFL (English as a foreign language) resource. From within a multilingual Brazilian context, Dariva's article first contextualizes fan fiction through the framework of authentic language, then considers the Archive of Our Own as a repository of texts that allow access to fan community participation. These texts thus generate high levels of intrinsic motivation, which powers the extensive reading required for foreign language acquisition in intermediate and advanced English-language learners. Dariva ends with a call to study such repositories from both within and outside an Anglocentric lens for the purposes of interdisciplinary knowledge production.

[4.3] "Transcultural Fan Studies in Practice: A Conversation" is a roundtable with Lori Morimoto, Paul Booth, Ross Garner, Melanie E. S. Kohnen, Bethan Jones, E. J. Nielsen, Louisa Ellen Stein, and Rebecca Williams. This conversation takes place among a group of fan scholars discussing shared memories of a pre-Covid-19 collective embodied scholarly and fannish experience: a conference symposium on transcultural fan studies and trips to various fan pilgrimage sites in Japan, facilitated by Lori Morimoto. Morimoto's framing of the trip as a self-reflexive disruption of fan studies' Anglocentrism fuels the entire discussion. The roundtable bridges disparate yet parallel scholarly conversations around localization and cultural access in theme parks, teaching media studies through reflexive ethnographic practices, and the positionalities at work within experiencing and analyzing culturally distinct forms of fannishness.

[4.4] In "Fandom and Pedagogy in a Time of Pandemic," Crystal S. Anderson discusses how born-digital methods of relationship and engagement modeled by online fandoms were leveraged for pedagogical use by instructors teaching online during the Covid-19 pandemic. Through cultivating intensity of affective engagement and facilitating asynchronous collaborative communities of practice, Anderson argues that fannish methodologies fostered student learning in the midst of the technological challenges of the pandemic year.

[4.5] In "Teaching Fan Fiction: Affect and Analysis," teacher-student pair Kathryn Conrad and Jamie Hawley describe the process and results of teaching a course centered on fan fiction, with specific attention paid to managing the multiple positionalities required of students who are also fans taking the course and potentially being asked to analyze works to which they hold deep affinities. Conrad and Hawley discuss the specific course structures put into place to scaffold this affective analytic performance and document their outcomes as the course progresses.

[4.6] Last, in "Chinese Celebrity Fans during the Covid-19 Pandemic," Yang Lai proposes that presenting Chinese fannish online behaviors through a pedagogical framework of connected learning circumvents the dismissive responses to celebrity fandoms' mobilizations during the initial Covid-19 outbreak in Hubei province. Lai discusses these practices as forms of youth culture and diagnoses them as powerful but temporary interventions in state-controlled civic media participation. Lai's analyses demonstrate the promise and urgent necessity of contextually specific discussions of fannish civics, both online and off.

5. Book reviews

[5.1] The two book reviews in this section focus on books by Rebecca Williams: her 2020 monograph Theme Park Fandom: Spatial Transmedia, Materiality, and Participatory Cultures, published by Amsterdam University Press and reviewed by Carissa Baker, and her 2018 edited collection Everybody Hurts: Transitions, Endings, and Resurrections in Fan Cultures, published by the University of Iowa Press and reviewed by JSA Lowe.

6. Multimedia

[6.1] The different pieces comprising the Multimedia section were originally submitted to 2020's FSNNA conference, which was held virtually October 13–17 during the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to synchronous panels, the conference offered an opportunity for participants to prerecord a "poster," which was hosted on the conference website; discussions surrounding the posters were hosted on a special Discord set up for the conference. As discussed by Lori Morimoto in the editorial introduction, the "stylistic leeway given to presenters resulted in a diversity of presentations" (¶ 2). This section includes a selection of these posters, each of which presents information in different styles, from "expository to more revelatory and experiential, each making use of its visual elements in engaging and creative ways" (¶ 3). As Morimoto notes, "Not only did these posters offer a tantalizing variety of presentational modes, but they also offer instructors different ways to engage student creativity in the classroom," both as examples to bring into the class and as models for student scholarship (¶ 4).

[6.2] "Wealth and Heteronormative Romance Tropes in Harry Potter Fan Fiction" by Effie Sapuridis uses a seven-minute video to explore the fetishization of extreme wealth in fanon, using Harry Potter tropes as the basis for this analysis. Sapuridis demonstrates that although these texts often subvert romance tropes, they still represent "the infiltration of classist, racist, and misogynistic ideologies in fan communities" (¶ 1.3). Also breaking through traditional romance tropes, Daiana Sigiliano and Gabriela Borges's "Creative Production of Brazilian Telenovela Fans on Twitter" offers a slide-deck analysis of tweets by fans of the Brazilian show Young Hearts (2017–18) that engendered critical thinking about the LGBTQIA+ community.

[6.3] Both "Broadway YouTubers and Musical Theater Fandom" by Steven Greenwood and "Madonna and Her Multicultural Fan Community" by Rick Pulos offer seven-minute videos that mix the popular, academic, and fannish. Greenwood's analysis of fan-created covers of Broadway hits uses the medium of video to illustrate the mix of professional and amateur creators using YouTube, while Pulos examines the quasi-matriarchal fan clubs that have developed around Madonna.

[6.4] The Multimedia section concludes with two more presentations from Brazil. Vitoria Ferreira Doretto's "The Reviewer's Role in Brazilian K-drama Fan Subs" provides a detailed infographic of the proofreading process within a fan subtitling community. And Aianne Amado's "A Brief Review of Fan Studies in Brazil" provides a four-minute video overview of the field from a Brazilian, transcultural perspective (Chin and Morimoto 2013).

7. Conclusion

[7.1] The repercussions from the 2020–21 Covid-19 disruptions to the academic year will continue to reverberate in the educational community, potentially leading to new equilibria between virtual and face-to-face teaching. Accordingly, the classrooms of the future may be substantially different than the classrooms of the past. We hope that the articles in this special issue help instructors and scholars rethink, overhaul, open up, and transform their classrooms as these changes pile up and up. Not every subject or every classroom can (or should) transition entirely to studying fans or embrace fannish or fan studies methodologies. But we believe that every classroom can benefit from the work presented in this special issue. Whether bringing transformative passions to the classroom or to archives, sharing a love of popular culture from all over the world, offering alternate projects and grading methods, or normalizing affect as a scholarly position, fan studies—and fandom—has a lot to teach.

8. Acknowledgments

[8.1] The following people worked on TWC No. 35 in an editorial capacity: Paul Booth and Regina Yung Lee (guest editors); Kristina Busse and Karen Hellekson (editors); and Katie Morrissey and Louisa Ellen Stein (Review).

[8.2] The following people worked on TWC No. 35 in a production capacity: Christine Mains and Claire Baker (production editors); Jennifer Duggan, Beth Friedman, Christine Mains, and Vickie West (copyeditors); Claire Baker, Christine Mains, Sarah New, Rrain Prior, and Rebecca Sentance (layout); and Claire Baker, Rachel P. Kreiter, Christine Mains, and Latina Vidolova (proofreaders).

[8.3] TWC thanks the board of the Organization for Transformative Works. OTW provides financial support and server space to TWC but is not involved in any way in the content of the journal, which is editorially independent.

[8.4] TWC thanks all its board members, whose names appear on TWC's masthead, as well as the peer reviewers who provided their services for TWC No. 35: Dominic Ashby, Rebecca Black, Olivia Dreisinger, Catherine Duchastel, Sam Ford, Victoria Godwin, Fiona Haborak, Derek Johnson, Katherine Larsen, Keshia Mcclantoc, Lori Morimoto, Rukmini Pande, Emily Roach, Erika Romero, Lauren Rouse, Shannon Sauro, and Linda Zygutis.

9. References

Booth, Paul J. 2015. "Fandom: The Classroom of the Future." In "European Fans and European Fan Objects: Localization and Translation," edited by Anne Kustritz, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 19. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2015.0650.

Busse, Kristina. 2017. "The Ethics of Studying Online Fandom." In The Routledge Companion to Media Fandom, edited by Melissa A. Click and Suzanne Scott, 9–17. New York: Routledge.

Chin, Bertha, and Lori Hitchcock Morimoto. 2013. "Towards a Theory of Transcultural Fandom." Participations 10 (1): 92–108. https://hcommons.org/deposits/objects/hc:11776/datastreams/CONTENT/content.

Howell, Katherine Anderson, ed. 2018. Fandom as Classroom Practice: A Teaching Guide. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.

Jenkins, Henry. 1992. Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. New York: Routledge.

Jones, Bethan. 2016. "The Ethical Hearse: Privacy, Identity, and Fandom Online." Learned Fangirl, March 25, 2016. http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2016/03/the-ethical-hearse-privacy-identity-and-fandom-online/.

Largent, Julia E., Milena Popova, and Elise Vist. 2020. "Toward Some Fanons of Fan Studies" [editorial]. In "Fan Studies Methodologies," edited by Julia E. Largent, Milena Popova, and Elise Vist, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 33. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2020.2013.

McPherson, Tara. 2018. "Platforming Hate: The Right in the Digital Age." Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities talk, October 11, 2018. University of Washington, Seattle.

Morimoto, Lori. 2017. "Transnational Media Fan Studies." In The Routledge Companion to Media Fandom, edited by Melissa A. Click and Suzanne Scott, 280–88. New York: Routledge.

Pande, Rukmini. 2018. Squee from the Margins: Fandom and Race. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.