Date of Award

Spring 5-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Ian Barnard

Second Advisor

Dr. Joanna Levin

Third Advisor

Dr. Justine Van Meter


What is literature? What is art? And, just as importantly, what isn’t? What criteria are you using to make this judgment call? As natural as we feel our views to be, they are not; they are culturally and socioeconomically based. How and when we live affects what we see as literature or art and what we deem not to be. While there was originally a large chasm in Western cultures between what was considered to be “proper” art and literature and what was considered lowbrow and for the uncultured masses, this divide has diminished over time. Instead of everyday people acting as simple consumers of mass media and popular culture, they are often a part of a participatory culture in which they react and contribute to larger conversations around different types of media and culture. A prime example of people moving beyond bland consumption into active participation is fan culture, especially activities such as writing fanfiction.

What is fanfiction? To give a broad definition, fanfiction is a work of fiction written by a fan that uses the characters, storyworld, or plot of an already existing form of media such as a book, TV show, or movie. But this is a deceptively simple definition for something that is rather complex in reality. Because fanfiction is derived from an already existing work, it is often derided as plagiaristic. However, this view misses the fundamental basis of fanfiction. Fanfiction authors are not merely copying, pasting, and then publishing the words of the source material. Fanfiction is these fans’ reaction to the source work, grown out of love, frustration, anger, hope, and more. VII Additionally, fanfiction brings together groups that are often on the margins of mainstream media, such as LBGTQ+ individuals, people of color, and people with mental or physical disabilities. It also serves as a community learning space where people are able to practice their writing and language skills in a low-stakes, supportive environment. Fanfiction is an underexplored reservoir of writing that deserves serious consideration similar to other forms of literature.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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