Course Description

Course Description

While there has been a great deal of focus on the sociological formation of the “fan” and fan communities, less emphasis has been placed on the ways in which sexuality and queerness are interpreted and re-formed through fan practices. “Fandom” here refers to a specific realm that is made of largely of women and queer men, creating “transformative works” such as fanfiction, (fan)vids, fanart, and podfic. Generally this community has been based around the idea of “slash”, a genre of male/male romantic and erotic fanworks. However, not all of its members are interested in slash or participate in slashed transformative works – there are also categories of femslash, het, gen, transfic, polyfic, acefic, genderswap, racebending, and so on that can be equally queered. In general, any community that uses these kinds of terms and makes any distinction between these genres would be constitutive of “fandom”.

This course will look at sexual identifications and practices of fans (or “fen” as some prefer to be known, to differentiate themselves from other forms of largely male-based fan communities) within fandom, but also at the identifications and practices of the characters in the created fanworks. These two realms cannot necessarily be separated – there is a necessary identification process between the fan-creator and the characters ze writes/paints/vids/podfics about. This is particularly true because slash as a genre is sometimes portrayed distinct from male/male erotica in its focus on the emotions and thoughts underlying even the least plotty erotic stories (known as PWPs or “Plot, What Plot?”). Furthermore, the collaborative and communal sense of creation in fandom leads to a form of fannish performance and play, often in the erotic or romantic works. All of this helps to create and recreate gender, sex, sexuality, race, ethnicity, nationality, age, dis/ability, class, language, and other social categories in the fannish realm.

Course Aims

  • To develop a critical understanding of queer practices and identifications within transformative fanworks;
  • To examine how the practices and identifications of fans themselves can inform and affect their creations; To look at the dynamics of fandom as a queer social space;
  • To use queer theory and gender theory to interrogate and critique these understandings of fandom;
  • To create one’s own fanworks by employing the strategies of queering source texts that have been developed throughout the course;
  • To practice collaborative analytical and fiction writing in order to emulate fannish communal practices

Assignments and Grading

Discussion Leader (20%): Each student will be expected to act as a discussion leader twice during the semesters. These presentations will be done in pairs, and each pair will provide a brief summary and synthesis of the readings for that class, drawing on connections between them. They will then set out a number of discussion questions for the class. PowerPoint or other visual presentations are not necessary, but a hand-out with definitions, explanations, and questions may be helpful.

Essay 1 (20%):

Fanwork Project & Essay 2 (20%)

Final Fanwork Project and Essay 3 (30%)

Participation (10%): Attendance and participation in class discussions will be very important in the structure and flow of this course.

For more information, please see the individual pages for assignments or further resources.


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