Helping Fan Studies Scholars to Enter the Burkean Parlour

Jamie Henthorn's picture

As I read through the wonderful responses to the question of fanfiction and pedagogy, I confess that I am thinking about helping fan studies graduate students. As Kimberly Workman notes in her submission, fan studies does a great deal to teach students about narrative development. This is an activity that can be just as rewarding for graduate students as it can be for undergrads. However, graduate students who begin to focus particularly on fanfiction as an avenue of study may find it challenging to connect with mentors who specialize in the field at their own institutions because these networks are still developing.

So, where do we send the graduate student who wants to engage in fanfiction research? There are several conferences that have developed rich conversations around Fan Studies. The Society of Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) has an active Fan Studies community and they are potentially the most active Twitter users at the conference. Fan Studies scholars are working on establishing a Special Interest Group (SIG) at SCMS, which helps to legitimize and make visible the field. PCA/ACA and its regional conferences also provide rich communities for academic conversations around fan fiction.

Another great resource, that might not be readily apparent, is the Feminist Scholars Digital Workshop (FSDW). FSDW is a weeklong writing workshop that takes place asynchronously and entirely online. Individuals are put into workshop groups with four other scholars who are addressing related topics. Writing can be conference papers, journal articles, dissertation chapters, or even webtexts. FSDW welcomes professors, graduate students, and working professionals. What FSDW, and events like it, offer that conferences do not is time. Instead of receiving a few questions immediately after a panel presentation, three other scholars spend a week on one’s work, helping the writer to develop stronger arguments.

In my experience, FSDW’s emphasis on Gender Studies meant that while not every member of my group was a Fan Studies scholar, my workshop colleagues were adept at honing in on the issues of race, gender, and sexuality in my own writing that Evelyn Deshane and Rukmini Pande address in their contributions to this survey. In the months since FSDW, it has been rewarding to see how the pieces our group workshopped became journal articles and dissertation chapters.

Pushing Fan Studies scholars to consider their work is in academic conversation with other scholars in and out of the field is integral to helping budding academics position themselves within the Burkean Parlor. Building on active and aligned networks is one way to help grad students get the feedback they need. FSDW is currently open for registration. You can find out more about the project here.