Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

English

First Advisor

Benjamin Robertson

Second Advisor

Lori Emerson

Third Advisor

Laurialan Reitzammer

Abstract

This work approaches the fan practice of slash fiction, creative queer readings of certain stories and characters, from a critical literary perspective. A sometime member of participatory fan culture myself, I aim to discuss the topic with the enthusiasm of the fan, while maintaining the analytical stance of the critic. Drawing on the works of 20th-century feminist literary theorists such as Cixous and Irigaray, I contextualize slash fiction amongst its contemporary social movements, connecting its motives and trends to the issues outside fandoms it tends to address. With the help of several ethnographic critics of modern fan culture, most notably Jenkins, I turn focus inward to address the numerous ways fan writing itself functions as a critical reaction to mainstream media texts. By examining the slash fiction inspired by three television shows: Star Trek, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, and Sherlock, I reveal a hint of the genre’s breadth while still striving to maintain critical depth in my analysis of each. This examination will demonstrate the vastly diverse ways in which fans insert their desired narratives into television shows and, by extension, express their equally diverse sexual identities and perspectives. Finally, I will elaborate upon the way changing media in the 21st century altered slash, allowing the genre to expand from covert mailing lists and meetings to internationally accessible creations and conversations. The advent of the Internet will not prove, however, to have altered slash fiction’s fundamental goals and values. Across decades, slash shows itself to be a consistent force for generating sexual representation where once there was none, offering itself as a safe space for expression and even critical discourse. I hope to leave the reader with an optimistic view of slash fiction’s message, one of inclusivity and equality, and perhaps even an idea of how slash may someday come to affect mainstream media practices far outside of its niche.

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