Popular Stories and Promised Lands: Fan Cultures and Symbolic Pilgrimages

Article excerpt

Popular Stories and Promised Lands: Fan Cultures and Symbolic Pilgrimages R.C. Aden. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1999.

Aden argues persuasively that being a fan of a particular popular culture phenomenon such as a comic strip or a television series involves making a symbolic pilgrimage to the sacred land that is created in that comic strip or television series. He contends that fans experience support, challenge, and inspiration in observing the activities that occur in these created sacred lands. Furthermore, he stresses that fans profit most from their symbolic pilgrimages when they reflect on their pilgrimage experiences as a way to uncover better ways to cope with their lives in their material homes. He illustrates the nature of the pilgrimages with separate chapters on the comic strip Dilhert, the television program X-files, the magazine Sports Illustrated, and the movie Field of Dreams. Furthermore, he illustrates the developmental and/or therapeutic value of reflecting on pilgrimage experiences with examples of reflections on his own pilgrimage experiences as a fan of these four popular culture phenomena.

Aden engages readers on two levels. First, he displays enthusiasm for his subject matter in the many anecdotal accounts of his experiences of being a fan. second, he shares with the planning that he put into writing the book. For example, he states that he forsook the Burkean theories he studied in graduate school in favor of integrating and applying to popular materials multiple philosophical and anthropological perspectives that he has come to value during his teaching career. …