Abusing text in the Roman and contemporary worlds

Francesca Middleton

University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom

[0.1] Abstract—In this comparison of portraits of authorial anxiety, I focus on contemporary attitudes to fan fiction and on discussions of authors in Imperial Rome (notably Galen and Martial) to consider the assumptions of textuality that frame imagined textual abuse. Revealed are parallel discourses for different concerns—for the reader as a potentially ill-educated consumer and the text as an object in the ancient world; in the contemporary world, for the author's personal violation and the text as an agent within readerly experience. I discuss how fan fiction's lack of commercial publication is used to distinguish it from other contemporary literature within this framework. Fan fiction's noncommercial publication can thus be appreciated as a marginalizing act in itself.

[0.2] Keywords—Commerciality; Fan fiction; Galen; Harry Potter; Martial; Material text

Middleton, Francesca. 2016. "Abusing Text in the Roman and Contemporary Worlds." In "The Classical Canon and/as Transformative Work," edited by Ika Willis, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 21.

1. Introduction

[1.1] Literature from the ancient world has had more impact on the way that we live today than any other, and yet it comes to us through surprisingly little evidence. This can be frustrating: for many types of analysis, we lack a great deal of the information we need to reach concrete conclusions, and not least we lack a precise date or context for many works. However, there are advantages to such methodological constraints. They encourage us to look at the classical world from a broader perspective, taking account of the material we have in its full variety and forging comparisons wherever they can be made. One area of Classics that benefits from these necessities is the study of literary culture. With only a limited number of texts available from any particular time period, and not one that reaches us through an edition that dates to the time of its composition, it often becomes more responsible to try to uncover expected norms rather than precisely qualified visions of historical reality. The difficulties following from such analysis further reveal larger and centrally important questions: How did classical culture work (for example, do we gain a better sense of this world from literature, a predominantly elite activity, or from the more egalitarian material record?), or else how does literary culture change over time?

[1.2] Such is my interest here, writing as a classicist. In the spirit of these driving questions, my subject is relatively abstract. My intention is to discuss the discourse of text: the shared understanding of what it means to be a literary work written, read, and circulated within literary culture—textuality, after one definition. Specifically, I am concerned with the anxieties that different models of textuality allow for between the high Roman Empire and the contemporary world, and thus with the way in which fan fiction today is able to operate as an abuse of text distinct in social position and assumed value from other literary practice.

[1.3] Textuality is a constant shared by any work of literature within a literary culture, and as a result it does not require a great breadth of evidence to examine in detail. Indeed, when taken on its own, it is not always clear what value lies in establishing the norms of textuality within a particular time and place. However, when it comes to the study of the contemporary landscape, an understanding of ancient textuality is remarkably useful. For we are all by necessity complicit in our own categorizations of what we read, which leaves the inner workings and expectations of the concept of literature opaque. Comparing contemporary ideas with those of the ancient world throws certain particularities of our textual discourse into sharp relief.

[1.4] This is particularly fruitful for the discussion of fan fiction. Fan fiction, after all, is a category of literary practice that is universally understood to be something different from other types of literary composition. But why? And how? In terms of form, one might say that fan fiction is recognizable as the transformative extension of literary work already in existence—yet this idea, of transforming and extending what has come before, is a habit that is recognizable across the entirety of ancient literary culture, with no specific term to denote it. To take one example, we might examine the reuse and manipulation of the Homeric epics across all areas of society: in scholarly practices of edition and interpretation; in literary practices of allusion to both Homeric language and Homeric ideas; in parody, biography, and cento; in visual uses of Homer's image and epic narratives; even in the ritual uses made of the Homeric epics by so-called magic and medicine (note 1). We might therefore question how contemporary culture comes to find a distinct label for the transformative practice of fan fiction. Indeed, any formal definition of fan fiction is unstable even in the modern world, since the reuse of classical motifs and ideas has been a staple of Western cultural production as far back as it is possible to trace, as scholars of classical reception know well.

[1.5] To discuss fan fiction in a more cross-cultural context, therefore, another definition is required. Beyond formal or aesthetic criteria, it is possible to distinguish fan fiction from literature as work whose producers and primary consumers are fans working through fan networks. The result of this is that textuality becomes embroiled in personal identity politics, and this has been the working assumption of many fan fiction studies to date, which analyze fan literature through the lens of fan culture in order to understand that culture. In Textual Poachers ([1992] 2013, 277–78), Henry Jenkins famously defines fandom as something that "involves a particular mode of reception," "involves a particular set of critical and interpretive practices," "constitutes a base for consumer activism," "possesses particular forms of cultural production, aesthetic traditions and practices," and "functions as an alternative social community," wherein fan fiction serves to construct fannish identity. This political appreciation of fan fiction has persisted in volumes such as Matt Hills's Fan Cultures (2002); Jonathan Gray, Cornel Sandvoss, and C. Lee Harrington's edited volume Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World (2007); and Lynne Zubernis and Katherine Larsen's Fandom at the Crossroads (2012). Focusing their attention on fan fiction specifically, Kristina Busse and Karen Hellekson (2014, 8–10) further suggest that the "central directions in fan fiction research" define this practice politically, as "interpretation of the source text," "a communal gesture," "a sociopolitical argument," "individual engagement and identificatory practice," "one element of audience response," or else "a pedagogical tool," echoing many threads of Anne Jamison (2013) and indeed reducing the scope of fan fiction studies as earlier put forward by Hellekson and Busse in Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet (2006).

[1.6] Yet the social identity of fan and the literary quantity of fan fiction do not fully predicate one another. One may be a fan without writing fan fiction, as the myriad other forms of fannish engagement reveal. Similarly, one may be a fan and yet write other types of literature, which may yet be circulated within fannish networks. As the actor Amber Benson (2013, 388) argues, it is even possible to imagine fan fiction produced by an author who does not identify as a fan, such that she finds herself asking, "Also, am I somehow creating fan fiction when I interact with people on the internet—adding to my real-life, personal continuing storyline and to the now-defunct storyline of the character I played on television?" This problem means that the textuality of fan fiction—the way in which something written may be recognized as fan fiction—cannot be accounted for by the identity of its author or readership alone.

[1.7] Therefore, I suggest here that it is necessary to set fan fiction into the broader context of contemporary literary culture. To understand fan fiction, not least how it is able to exist as its own category of literature, I argue that it is necessary to appreciate certain quirks of contemporary textuality, which a comparison of the anxieties felt by imperial and contemporary authors throws into relief. This comparison reveals two key issues. The first is the relationship between a text and an individual literary work, as it becomes clear that the contemporary text is something imagined to be much bigger and more generalized than the individual compositions and circulated material objects that are used to read it. This allows works of fan fiction to access and (in certain authors' eyes) abuse a text, even if the work is very different from its source. In the imperial world, on the other hand, each text is recognized to exist within the discrete material form of the written work, which changes the nature of authorial concern. Second, one must appreciate the role of commercial exchange in contemporary reading practice. When the purchase of a work may be seen to mark the beginning of a valid reading experience, fan fiction finds itself marked by its noncommercial status as something that cannot be read in the same way.

[1.8] To establish this argument, I have structured this article into three parts. First, I trace the anxieties felt by both ancient and modern authors around readers' access to an authentic text and what this means for the author's relationship with the reader. Next I consider how this vision for the text informs anxieties of reproduction and circulation in the ancient world. This allows me to finally consider the way in which the different circulation practices of fan fiction from contemporary commercial literature inform the value of fan fiction as a reading experience.

2. Galen and other anxious authors

[2.1] Galen's discussion De libris propriis (On his own books) presents a rare insight into the book trade of the second century AD. As the prologue announces those reasons why this medical scholar has chosen to compile a discussion of the topics addressed in his oeuvre, the text further offers a portrait of imperial authorship and its anxieties, as a number of scholars have recognized (including Gurd 2014). In this portrait, we find deep concern for the transformations that might be practiced on the work by book traders, following from the author's desire to be represented accurately. This desire is familiar from contemporary authors' attitudes to transformative practice, specifically fan fiction. When we look at the details of this desire, however, we find that Galen envisions the corruption of his work in a very different way from contemporary authors and that he considers the written style of his work to be more important for its identification than the content to be found within, as contemporary writers value. This reveals two different models of textuality at work between this ancient author and those who are contemporary: a different discourse of authorship, certainly, but also a different discourse of text.

[2.2] Writing to his friend Bassus, Galen opens De libris propriis with an anecdote. He was recently walking in Rome's book quarter, the Sandalarium, when he encountered two men engaged in an argument over whether a book on sale was or was not by him. So Galen writes:

[2.3] The book had been attributed to "Galen the doctor." It was being purchased by one of them as if it were one of mine, though it had been written by someone else, when another man—a man of letters—was driven by the inscription to take a look at the book's contents. Immediately on reading the first two lines he tore off the tag, and said plainly how "this language is not Galen's: this book has been falsely attributed." Of course, the man saying this had been given a basic education, which children brought up Greek used to be afforded at an early age by grammarians and rhetoricians. Many of those who now begin working in medicine or philosophy cannot read so well, even as they attend lectures on the greatest and finest mysteries of human endeavor, which philosophy and medicine teach us.

[2.4] This manner of shortsightedness began many years ago, when I was still but a lad, yet at that time it had not reached the height it has now escalated to. On account of this, therefore, and because many of my books have been mutilated in all sorts of ways—because people in other countries present the work as their own at the same time as they take parts out, add parts in, or change things around—I think it better to first discuss the reason for these mutilations, and then explain in turn the content of the works I have actually written. (note 2)

[2.5] The second half of the passage makes clear Galen's inspiration for putting together De libris propriis, namely the great number of distortions that his work has undergone. So he asserts that in various guises there have been parts taken out (aphairein), parts added in (prostithenai), and parts rearranged (hypallattein), vividly emphasizing the push and pull in different directions by transforming hands. What is striking, however, is that Galen makes no move to prevent these transformations. Instead, he is responding to the increase in such transformative practice, empowering the reader to better navigate this varied material by restating what has been in fact written by him.

[2.6] This qualifies the relationship between author and reader suggested by the opening scene. Beyond the books themselves, it is clear that the reader should not expect any contact with the human person whose words they are searching after. Whether we are meant to assume that this incident in the Sandalarium is a real or imagined scenario, it is clearly not expected at all that Galen the man, as the author of the work placed under debate by the shoppers, should (or indeed could) intervene to provide the correct answer. Galen's physical engagement with the scene is not the solution to the problem, but instead it is the reader's education that reveals the fraud. Galen the embodied author, represented by his imagined physical presence in the anecdote, is therefore revealed to be far less important than the literary representation of his name and writing style, and De libris propriis becomes an aid toward the reader's acquisition of such knowledge rather than a work that might be valued as the product of Galen's labor.

[2.7] It is possible to trace this model of authorship further through imperial antiquity, as authorial identity is even more emphatically located in written style rather than in the human personage. In her work on Latin pseudepigraphy, Irene Peirano (2012) discusses the numerous texts that were transmitted for centuries under the names of authors who cannot have written them, such as those poems collected in the Virgilian appendix. Grounding her discussion in the context of declamatory rhetoric, whereby students were trained to take on a number of different personae and subject positions, Peirano suggests that these texts can be seen to provide "creative supplements" to their chosen author's corpus of work (10). Again, this depends on a model of authorship that is not dependent on the author's physical agency but on the persona, style, and subject matter to be found in their body of literature. Elsewhere, Pliny records an anecdote in which Tacitus introduced himself to a new acquaintance by suggesting that the man would already have known him through his reading (Pliny, Epistles 9.23.2). Scholars such as Simon Swain (1996) have also emphasized the specific importance of language and style to Greeks under the Roman Empire as a means to assert Greek identity, and the effect of this can also be felt in ancient biography, which as a genre responds to works of literature and literary personae in order to present an image of the author (note 3).

[2.8] Of course, it is uncertain how canny ancient readers were to the games of authorial personae. However, to look now at contemporary literary culture, some key differences in our model of authorship become apparent. First of all, to think of an author today is to immediately imagine a persona that depends on a far greater amount of paratextual information, including not only written biographies and images but also videos and live events, all of which present the author as an embodied human being. So, to take my next example, in an article which compiles contemporary authors' attitudes to fan fiction, Emily Temple (2012) presents those opinions underneath images of the authors in question, reflecting the authors' imagined relationship to their texts (note 4).

[2.9] Temple (2012) collates various quotations from George R. R. Martin, J. K. Rowling, Anne Rice, Stephenie Meyer, Ursula K. Le Guin, Orson Scott Card, Diana Gabaldon, J. D. Salinger, and Charlie Stross, who are all predominantly writers of fantasy and science fiction, notionally the most popular genres to inspire fannish activity. These reported opinions depend on a view of authorship that is very different from that depicted by Galen, expressing views that are heavily influenced by 19th-century Romantic rhetoric. So Temple summarizes the complaints as follows: "Monetary issues as well as feelings of personal violation and another sentiment that roughly translates to 'if you were really creative, you'd make up your own characters.'" The purpose of literature is seen as being to express the self, and to that extent literature is seen to embody the self (note 5).

[2.10] I will discuss the financial concerns of these authors, especially Scott Card, below. For the moment, however, it is worth focusing on the ethical complaints that color the other authors' discussions of fan fiction. These anxieties, after all, suggest that it is no longer the reader's responsibility to look after their own reading experience, but that this is instead the author's direct concern.

[2.11] In the words of these writers, it is clear that the circulation of imitative work is not perceived as an attack on the reader, as it is for Galen, who is primarily concerned that ignorant readers might be manipulated. Instead, imitative work becomes an attack on the authors themselves. So Le Guin writes, "It's not sharing but an invasion, literally—strangers coming in and taking over the country I live in, my heartland"; Rice, "It upsets me terribly to even think about fan-fiction with my characters"; Martin, "My characters are my children…I don't want people making off with them, thank you. Even people who say they love my children." Readers who do not produce fan fiction are not discussed or focalized apart from by Gabaldon, who comments, "I'm very flattered that some of you enjoy the books so much that you feel inspired to engage with the writing in a more personal way than most readers do." Yet even these consuming readers are only discussed in order to define the deviant, overly "personal" minority who present an affront to the author's activity and highly physicalized sense of security (so Gabaldon also comments that "it makes me want to barf whenever I've inadvertently encountered [fan fiction] involving my characters").

[2.12] The author's physical self is the main target of fan fiction's threat. It is certainly possible for those who write fan fiction to threaten readers in turn, but this only happens when those fans assume the author's authority. As a result, Rowling suggests that it would become a problem if a situation occurred in which "young children were to stumble on Harry Potter in…an X-rated story." Merely characterized as young, it appears to make no difference whether these children are already familiar with Harry Potter's character from one context or another; what is at stake is not the children's prior or ongoing reading experience but the scope for their experience of this character, the potential for Rowling as author to provide them with Harry Potter in a certain way, and the fan fiction author's irresponsible abuse of the character.

[2.13] Taken together, these opinions account for a model of authorship that values the text as a representation of the self to be managed by an author rather than a model in which the text becomes something that readers might use to construct an authorial persona. This transforms the way in which the text is imagined. In Galen's anecdote above, stylistic and formal qualities are so significant to the text that a poorly written Galen the Doctor simply cannot be a Galen. Under the same principle, it would be possible to suggest that an X-rated Harry Potter book presents no version of Harry Potter to which Rowling might lay claim. For these contemporary writers, however, the emphasis is not on style but on setting—Le Guin's heartland—and characters—Martin's children. These are extensible quantities that go beyond a single written work and may thus be abused by fan fiction.

[2.14] The nuances of this model are brought out in Meyer's comments: "In the beginning I hadn't heard of [fan fiction] and there were some that were…I couldn't read the ones that had the characters IN character. It freaked me out…but there was one about Harry Potter and Twilight that was hilarious. And then there was one that was about a girl who was starring as Bella in the movie and that was funny." The abuse of the Twilight series here takes place precisely when the characters in a piece of Twilight fan fiction appear to be the same as those in Meyer's books and appear in character. Conversely, the danger is reduced when a distinction between Meyer's work and a work of fan fiction may be found—but this must be in terms of character or setting. It is Harry Potter the character who represents Rowling's text, not each individual title in the Harry Potter series, and thus Harry Potter's X-rated adventures do indeed become Rowling's concern, as that quantity of Harry Potter the character is shared by all works that make reference to him.

[2.15] Individual works play a different role in contemporary textuality than in the ancient world, whether that work is a particular book in a series or a piece of fan fiction. As expressions of the author's self, these works are seen to act as agents within an abstractly realized space, either avatars of the author's creative control or else tools of invasion and abduction, manipulating character and setting. We may recognize this in contemporary theorizations of fan fiction, for example when Francesca Coppa argues that "fan fiction develops in response to dramatic rather than literary modes of storytelling" (2006, 226). The idea that fan fiction redirects "bodies in space," to use Coppa's term, suggests precisely a model in which characters and settings are organized by a collection of individual works, and, as I discuss below, elements of this model persist even among contemporary authors who approve of fan fiction. This is an aspect of contemporary textuality, however, that is specifically modern.

3. Circulation and the text as commodity

[3.1] The image of authors and their children has been used to decry fan fiction, as I discussed above, but it has also been used to defend it. Famously, the image has been used by Joss Whedon (2012) in an April Ask Me Anything (AMA) discussion on the news-sharing Web site Reddit, where the writer and director comments that "Art isn't your pet—it's your kid. It grows up and talks back to you." From the understanding of contemporary textuality that I have just outlined, it is easy to slip between discussions of text and character as an author's children, as both may be identified as products of the author and are mutually constitutive. Indeed, it seems natural to imagine anthropomorphic characters as the ones with the voice to talk back on behalf of the text. As a result, it is no surprise when one commentator on Whedon's Reddit AMA gains several marks of support by agreeing with this comment in terms of Martin's views on characters as his children: "Very good point. So many artists want to be 'helicopter' parents. I am looking at you George!" However, in a different model of textuality, in which character and other abstract entities are less significant to the text's constitution, this discussion of character and/as text is less straightforward and less pertinent to the anxieties of textual abuse. Under the Roman Empire it was the formal qualities of text that were the most important and thus the text as physical object that was at stake—not only at the point of initial production but most of all in circulation. This distinction reveals fan fiction to be operating within very particular literary cultural constraints.

[3.2] The moment that we imagine ancient literature in transmission beyond the author's imagination and conceivable autograph draft, we encounter the imperfect practice of copy work by scribes. The capacity for human error means that it is necessary to imagine a greater range of acceptable variation between individual copies of texts than is acceptable today, even before we consider the impact of the empire's vast size and the relative lack of interconnection between its literate communities. One of the more interesting consequences of this fact is that while we might imagine a great deal of variation between copies of the same work, we might also suspect a much greater similarity between the various works owned by a single reader. The provincial litteratus or pepaideumenos could not expect to own a book that would be of the same appearance or precise standardized contents as their counterpart in Rome—yet among their own collection they would have found texts generally produced in Egyptian papyrus, written in one of relatively few book hands used by professionalized scribes and, most significantly, amended extensively by themselves (note 6).

[3.3] For readers, this meant that there was great concern for the appearance and scope of the text that they read, and anxiety was located in what textual objects might be taken to signify. As Michael Squire (2011) points out, many authors of the first century AD describe fantasy versions of the great and lengthy Homeric epics, most often the Iliad, written in letters so small that their entirety was able to be contained, for example, within a single nutshell. As the object in hand stood for what the text could mean, the reader's relationship with Homer was able to be modeled by their relationship to that object, and many desired the chance to possess the work of Homer in something so small. Through typical means of production, a papyrus roll in the first century AD might be imagined to contain around 1,200 lines of verse, meaning that a reader's typical Iliad would run to a box of 10 to 15 rolls, something that could not be held all at once. To have an Iliad in miniature, therefore, was to imagine an unprecedented level of power over that text and over Homer as an author.

[3.4] This particular desire for a controlled Homer is thematized in an epigram by the poet Martial (15.184):

[3.5] Homer in a fistful of papers
Ilium and Ulysses, enemy of King Priam,
equally lurk in many folds closed by skin.

[3.6] Not only the Iliad but also the Odyssey are imagined here in an edition of Homer that is tiny enough to be held in a grasping boxer's fist, in pugillaribus (in a fistful of papers). This occurs when its warring subject matter (the city of Ilium and the invader Ulysses) have been brought under control by the text's physical constraints, leaving them condita pelle ("closed by skin"). However, the state of the text is also precarious: these epics appear barely contained, their contents threatening to reveal themselves as the verb latent (lurk) implies. The desire to contain, control, and possess the Homeric epics informs this poem, which sits among a collection of over 200 epigrams, all describing gifts for the Saturnalia: such desire is what makes this gift valuable. And yet as Squire (2011) would highlight, the threat remains that such containment cannot be achieved, that the extensive scope of the Homeric epics cannot be realized in this minute form, and that they will break free to reassume their great size.

[3.7] Such paradoxes of containment can be seen to drive many projects of literary culture throughout the early empire, including not only Galen's own attempt to collect, categorize, and order the information present in his widely circulated books but also the numerous encyclopedias and reference works produced at this time (note 7). In the context of imperial textuality, it becomes possible to map a relationship between reader and author mediated precisely by the physical object in which the author's work is produced, the content singular and inextensible but the form a point of contention.

[3.8] When a text's object form controls the way in which that text is recognized, it is doing the work of a contemporary text's characters and setting. As a result, the means of transmission for ancient literature becomes a crucial locus of anxiety. A contemporary text is anthropomorphized to discuss authors' relationships with their characters, but the ancient text is anthropomorphized by means of its copies precisely in order to discuss the problems of circulation. Over the course of the first century AD, we thus find several Latin writers utilizing the idea of the text as slave, an anthropomorphic commodity, which through publication might be manumitted into freedom but can never escape its bonds of social dependence and control (note 8). As one of the most common Latin words for "slave" is puer ("boy" or "child"), this produces a parallel but significantly different discourse of text from the contemporary world.

[3.9] One of the most famous discussions of the text as slave is the first (and only surviving ancient source) to refer to textual abuse as abduction by pirate, plagarius. This is Martial's epigram 1.52:

[3.10] I send my works to you, Quintianus—
my works, I'm able to say, scattered notes
though they are, which your poet recites:
if they complain about this heavy service,
please intervene and act as a judge with the right authority—
and when that man calls himself their master,
please say that they are mine and freed by my hand.
When you've said this three or four times,
you might be able to shame the pirate.

[3.11] Here the poet addresses his patron, Quintianus, in regard to the use of his poems by another poet-client. If the poems (libelli, 1.2) suffer under their new poet, the patron is to defend them, and cum se dominum uocabit ille, | dicas esse meos manuque missos (ll. 6–7): "When that man [the new poet] calls himself their master, you [Quintianus] are to say that they are mine [Martial's] and freed by my hand." The emphasis here is on control and the bonds of patronage that would bind freed slaves to their old master, Martial, and ultimately to Quintianus as Martial's patron. As their patron, Quintianus could exert strong social influence over both Martial and the performing poet, who in turn should not be allowed to reenslave freedmen. (On this particular connotation of plagarius, see McGill [2012]). It is worth noting that Martial does not attempt to prevent the poems' performance by Quintianus's other poet but instead to ensure that this text remains under Quintianus's protection as Martial commends it to him. It is not any and all textual reuse that becomes a violation, therefore, but the abusive textual enslavement that characterizes the other poet as plagarius rather than as a legitimate recipient of the poems' service. As the libelli have been freed, so follows from this epigram, they may work in service of any number of different personages, but all parties must continue to observe the poems' affiliation to Martial, their original master.

[3.12] There is again an emphasis here on the ethics of textual use, familiar from Rowling's assertion that Harry Potter should not be able to star in an X-rated fan fiction. However, Martial's concern is not for the equivalent of Harry Potter the freedman but for Harry Potter the text, the delimited artifact. As J. Mira Seo (2009) argues, Martial's discussion of plagiarism forces an understanding of the text as material, a physical commodity like the slave. It is the circulation of physical copies and otherwise embodied transmission of the poetry in performance, therefore, that provides the means for textual violation. This in turn is not a crime against the author as an individual but a contravention of social mores more widely, to be managed by those already in possession of the power to intervene.

[3.13] Galen's anecdote about the booksellers of Rome's Sandalarium has already illustrated the problem of unregulated circulation. Under the empire, and in general in the ancient world, authors could not expect to know where, when, or how their work was being sold. Two centuries earlier than Galen, this becomes a point of contention in the writings of Cicero, as Sarah Culpepper Stroup (2010) discusses. Comparing the use of the words munus (gift) and libellus (booklet), Stroup argues that libellus in particular evokes connotations of uncertain distribution. In what we might appreciate as a fore-echo of Martial's own anthropomorphic commodities, Stroup notes, "The semi-personified libelli of rhetoricians and philosophers are texts that have escaped from their owners' control and that now circulate, virtually autonomously, with only nominal connection to their creators" (108). In Cicero's work, libellus gradually loses its negative connotations to the extent that "the term continues to connote anxiety over authorship and 'out of group' publication, but by the late 40s [BC] at least it seems to function as an ameliorative idiom for a sort of literary practice that had become increasingly common." And so on, we might imagine, to Martial (note 9).

[3.14] The issue of textual material is deemphasized by contemporary authors except as it might be related to the idea of commercial product (note 10). Indeed, many contemporary critics ignore the material form of text entirely. This deemphasis has implications of its own, as I will discuss below, but circulation norms do still matter for the idea of textual violation. In the statements collected by Temple (2012), Rowling's concern is said to be "to make sure that [fan fiction] remains a noncommercial activity to ensure fans are not exploited and it is not being published in the strict sense of traditional print publishing." Echoed by many contemporary authors, this idea that fan fiction is only permissible as a noncommercial activity rests on a crafted dichotomy between different circulation practices: commercial enterprise and noncommercial fan activity. In 2004 this dichotomy might certainly have been realized in the difference between print and digital publication, but over the last 10 years these associations have become increasingly less viable, leaving the presence or absence of financial transaction between reader and writer as the only clear category difference (note 11).

[3.15] While the gift economy of ancient literary culture provides an immediate counterpoint to commercial practices of circulation, it cannot be dichotomized in the same way as fan fiction is from contemporary commercial distribution. Innumerable ancient works begin with the pretense of a private exchange between individuals: thus Galen's address to Bassus and Martial's address to Quintianus. Yet we must imagine that such works only survive through their flow into public, commercial circulation, no matter the author's proclaimed attitude toward such activity. Indeed, the necessities of such a fall into commercial transmission and resultant material instability provide the dynamic for both textual violation and transformative textual practice. Unlike the contemporary world, this transformation is an expected and normal part of an imperial text's life cycle and cannot be prevented.

[3.16] How, then, is fan fiction able to be marginalized today?

4. Commercial distribution and fan fiction

[4.1] The contemporary world provides much less scope than the ancient for the physical manipulation of books. A published printed work might be cut up, reused, and annotated in any number of ways, but as we live in a world where texts are standardized by publishing houses before circulation, these transformed objects cannot be deemed the same as all others produced in their original print run. Moreover, this sort of manipulation is not a point of concern. The contemporary text, as I noted above, is not a thing defined by its material form but by its ideas of character and setting. Because the distribution of fan fiction remains an area of deep anxiety for authors, it is therefore necessary to rethink what different practices of circulation mean for a text. We must ask: How do commercial and noncommercial distribution affect these textual worlds differently?

[4.2] On July 21, 2007, at 12:01 AM, the final installment in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was made available for purchase. It was reportedly the biggest entertainment launch to that date, with security costing upwards of £10 million (Hastings and Jones 2007) and midnight launch parties occurring across the Anglophone world (Rich 2007). In the United Kingdom, the launch was also met by controversy around the book's marketing, as the major supermarket chain Asda initially listed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at half of Bloomsbury's recommended retail price and was to sell the book on release for £5, less than a third of the recommended £17.99 (note 12). This price provoked complaints from independent retailers across the country, and Asda found itself in an argument with Bloomsbury because of a press release claiming that the publishing house was "attempting to hold children to ransom" by setting their RRP at "twice the average child's pocket money and £5 more than the average kids' hardback bestseller" (Asda 2007). Bloomsbury pursued legal action and further claimed that Asda was in arrears for its book purchases, threatening to ban supply of the new Harry Potter book. The dispute was settled out of court.

[4.3] Rather than a matter of business that might be separated from textual space and the experience of reading, the complaints raised by distributors during this episode were repeatedly framed as ethical problems affecting readers and the book as a textual entity. So Asda argued in terms of children's access to the text; so Philip Wicks, representing the Booksellers Association, complained of the book's apparently devalued function: "We think it's a crying shame that the supermarkets have decided to treat [the novel] as a loss-leader, like a can of baked beans." Michael Norris, of Simba Information, made the point explicit: "You are not only lowering the price of the book. At this point, you are lowering the value of reading" (both quoted in Associated Press, 2007). Unlike the abuses of transmission in the ancient world, found in commercial and noncommercial exchange alike, this discussion of the material circulation of texts asserts that the commercial value placed on the object affects the quality of that object: it becomes inaccessible to children (with no question that they might save up or else share the book); it becomes something consumable and quotidian (a can of baked beans); it ultimately has less to offer.

[4.4] The significance of such discussion follows when reading is understood precisely as an experience within the space governed by authors through their work. In this phenomenon, what matters most is not what the text looks or feels like but what readers feel like as they engage with the textual object. This allows for current debates over whether electronic reading devices might adequately stand in for the generic book they are modeled to resemble: whether they physically resemble a paper book is less important than whether that physical object can evoke the same emotions and sense of experience that the reader has come to expect from the paper book (note 13). How much readers pay is absolutely part of the readers' experience: paying very little allows a literary work to feel like a can of baked beans. More than this, the time and place in which readers pay are made significant, as midnight launches toy with the idea that the first minute after publication may be the only time when unspoiled access to the textual world is available (note 14). Within this model, reading begins at the moment of purchase.

[4.5] What does this mean for fan fiction? As most authors suggest that they are content with fan fiction under the rubric that it cannot and should not become commercial activity, they appear to address the same legal anxieties as does Orson Scott Card, who comments, "If I do NOT act vigorously to protect my copyright, I will lose that copyright" (quoted in Temple 2012). However, as Temple's source of the comment, Lev Grossman (2011), remarks, "The scenario Card describes, in which an author's rights are diminished because he or she doesn't actively defend them, is associated more with trademark than with copyright." Even without money changing hands, fan fiction's position in relation to intellectual property laws is complicated and untested. It is therefore difficult to make sense of these anxieties. What we may appreciate nonetheless is the model of text that is being propagated by such complaints, in which commercial circulation activates textual violation. No matter how incoherent, there is resistance of fan fiction as a commercial enterprise that marks monetary exchange as something that might allow fan fiction to abuse the text (for surely not the author's bank balance), and it becomes a boundary line between literature and fan fiction that most authors are content to see in place. This reinforces a model through which purchase is a key moment within the reading experience. Indeed, we can say that payment legitimizes a work as literary endeavor: payment is a liminal point after which a work gains the capacity to manipulate the characters and settings that make up its text. Freely distributed fan fiction, on the other hand, becomes something that cannot manipulate text in the same way because there has been no financial transaction involved or even envisaged in the reading experience.

[4.6] In studies of fan culture, as in literary studies more widely, the text is seen increasingly as a transmedial entity, established between the boundaries of its constitutive objects (note 15). As Lars Elleström (2010) explores, this leaves the frontiers between different components of text as particularly fruitful sites for the discussion of textual meaning. It is possible to think of a textual object not as something that represents text but as something that interacts with text, as I have discussed. However, as transmedial enterprises become an increasingly significant mode of textual production in the contemporary world, and as the key texts we think with become not books but franchises, the possibilities for authorial control are diminished and the anxieties surrounding such control are increased.

[4.7] In the ancient world, textual transformation was inevitable, but authors still worried about its effect. Today it is manifestly not the case that authors of works that are part of transmedial texts can claim full control over what is envisaged as their expression of self. Despite this, as both Suzanne Scott (2012) and Matt Hills (2002, 133–43) explore, images of single author figures are proliferated to meet reader, or else consumer, expectations. A work's value is measured by its imagined relationship to this central figure—the show runner or show creator, for example—who provides the creative direction behind the commercial enterprise that the text becomes. As this author figure may not produce the entirety or even the majority of a franchise's literary and/or visual output, it cannot be the labors of production or the unique habits of style that define his or her authorial relationship to the text. Instead, authorship is the bond between textual product and this author figure's imagined creative oversight, which is mediated through commercial operation and enterprise. It is this particular dynamic that therefore becomes the locus for anxieties that position fan fiction as a threat to the text. The concern remains that fan fiction might manipulate character and setting, but that concern is qualified most often by the understanding that it is only when a reader pays to experience such manipulation that the larger transmedial text is affected.

[4.8] A reader living in the Roman Empire bought books in order to understand, inform, or control the works contained within—to possess the text as a physical entity. A contemporary reader, on the other hand, buys books in order to understand the text: they buy works that offer them insight into the characters and settings that (abstractly) make up what they read. In recent years, inspired not least by the publication of E. L. James's Fifty Shades of Grey (as discussed further by Jamison [2013]), arguments around the commerciality of fan fiction have rested on questions of legality or else their implications for the fan community, and it has been a continuing claim of scholarship that gift culture is a central component of fan practice (note 16). However, it should be clear that the noncommercial distribution of fan fiction is not only a concern for fan culture but also informs fan fiction's position within today's literary culture as irrelevant and invaluable. Rather than the expression of a marginalized community and nothing more, fan fiction must be seen as literature that has been expressly marginalized—not only by its opponents but also by its writers and proponents—by the virtue, if not vice, of being read gratis.

5. Notes

1. For recent discussion of ancient Homeric scholarship, see Montanari (2011). Lamberton and Keaney (1992) provide extensive discussion of ancient exegesis of Homer; see Lamberton (1986) on allegorical reading specifically. On ancient scholarship more broadly, see Too (1998); on just one of the games that was played with practices of Homeric scholarship, see Middleton (2014). Knauer's (1964) is the classic study of Homer's reuse in Virgil. Kim (2010) has focused on the use of Homer and the Homeric epics in imperial Greek literature. It is an impossible task to summarize the allusions to Homer in antiquity. For recent discussion of Homeric parody, see the volume edited by Acosta-Hughes et al. (2011); on the Batrachomyomachia as an explicit case of Homeric parody, see Most (1993). Graziosi (2002) provides a convincing account of Homer's invention in archaic and classical Greece. Ascheri (2011) discusses some of the curiosities in Homer's later imagined bibliography. On the Christian transformation of Homeric epic into Eudocia Augusta's Homerocentones, see Usher (1998), Sandnes (2011), and Karanika (2014). On the Tabulae Iliacae, small and puzzling images from the story of the Iliad inscribed on stone, see Squire (2011) and Petrain (2014). On the famous Archelaos relief, see Zeitlin (2001). On the role of Homer within Greek magic generally, see Collins (2008); on the prophetic text of the Homeromanteion, see Gregg Schwendner (2002) and Karanika (2011).

2. This and all subsequent translations are my own.

3. See also Whitmarsh (2006) specifically on the use of prose in the imperial Greek East to assert Greek identity. On the varying uses of ancient bibliography, see McGing and Mossman (2006).

4. It is notable that these images remained as a significant part of the article even when it was recirculated, in particular to the LiveJournal community ohnotheydidnt, which aggregates celebrity gossip and entertainment news (Goofusgallant 2012).

5. For a discussion of the role played by biography in the 19th century, see McCarthy (2009), who discusses the developing importance of a work's vitality and discernible connection between a work's author and the surrounding world in German critical circles. See also North (2009) on the relationship between biography and English Romantic poetry.

6. As Seo (2009, 574) comments, "We know that authors were not paid a royalty per copy sold, but rather a lump sum by the primary bookseller; therefore, the modern notion of copyright seems irrelevant to the Roman context": texts were expected to vary in form. On the growth and trade of papyrus, see Diringer (1982). On the place of the reader in the production of legible books, see Kenney (1982). The nature of the ancient material text is an increasingly popular topic in classical scholarship and is difficult to quantify here.

7. On the imperial world's encyclopedic tendency as the project of dominion, see the editors' introduction to König and Whitmarsh (2007).

8. For discussion of this with particular respect to Martial, see Seo (2009), pace McGill (2012, 74–112). On this image in particular, cf. Citroni (1986). On Roman slavery as a topos in literature and wider Roman discourse, see Fitzgerald (2000) and Lavan (2013), respectively.

9. For a further echo of this usage, a generation later than Cicero and around a century before Martial, see Propertius 3.3, in which Apollo describes the poet's work such that tuus in scamno iactetur saepe libellus | quem legat exspectans sola puella virum (ll. 19–20): "Your booklet is the sort often tossed onto a bench, that a lonely girl might read while waiting for a man." Again there is an emphasis on the casual and uncertain nature of the circulation, over which the author cannot have control.

10. A notable exception to this is Anne McCaffrey, who famously in the 1990s attempted to restrict the publication of fan fiction online; see Writers University (2002). However, in recent years her policy has shifted to emphasize noncommercial distribution instead, as she explains on her own Web site (McCaffrey n.d.).

11. In the report "Internet Access—Households and Individuals," the UK Office of National Statistics (2013, table 3) shows how in recent years there has been an increase from 20 percent to 55 percent of adults in Great Britain who would report "reading or downloading online news, newspapers, or magazines," typically print publications; see also Rainie and Duggan (2012) on the exponentially growing preference for electronic over print books in the United States.

12. On this price war in general, see BBC (2007) and Collett-White (2007). Clee (2008) notes that the disagreement did not change Asda's ongoing policy of retailing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at a high discount.

13. Amazon Kindle's marketing strategy can be seen to focus on this issue repeatedly—for example, as it encourages its audience to imagine using the e-reader in their living room (Wong Doody 2013) or while relaxing on holiday (Wasserman 2013). This follows a longer-running strategy of defining reading as an act of imagination, on which see Miller (2009).

14. There is little space here to talk about the phenomenon and anxiety surrounding spoilers within this model of textuality. However, the importance of finding out what happens as a key element of the reading experience was emphasized by the debates surrounding prerelease reviews for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—for example in Clark Hoyt's (2007) New York Times editorial, in which he responds to accusations leveled at the newspaper for reviewing the book before release.

15. For theoretical approaches to transmediality, see Rajewsky (2007), Elleström (2010), and Wolf (2008). On transmediality's importance to popular culture, see Mittell (2005) on televisual genres, Jenkins (2006) on its use within The Matrix (1999), and Parody (2011) on the construction of character in the new Doctor Who (2005–). In relation to fan studies, Hills (2002) argues convincingly that critical resistance to transmedial analysis has inhibited coherent approaches to fans' strategies of reading.

16. For recent discussion of this, see Jenkins ([1992] 2013) but also Hellekson (2009). De Kosnik (2009) argues that fan fiction should be commercialized but on the grounds that (typically women) fans should not allow their work to be undervalued—a similarly political point.

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