Texts by J. Rowling's Fans as Means of Conveying Subcultural Values

By Efimova, Natalya I. | Review of European Studies, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Texts by J. Rowling's Fans as Means of Conveying Subcultural Values


Efimova, Natalya I., Review of European Studies


Abstract

The article covers the process of evolution of J. Rowling's fans' verbal creative work. The research is devoted to a variety of texts made by fans including forms of Internet-lore and fanfiction, a phenomenon close both to literature and folklore by nature, a kind of narratives developing on the Internet and highly popular with avid admirers of the Harry Potter series. The author has been observing the subculture of Harry Potter fans since 2003 and has made a number of important conclusions about the nature of fanfiction, its genres, its connection to the original books by J. Rowling on the level of interpreting mythological archetypes and attitudes of fanfiction author's to Rowling's style and set of values. The article regards the above mentioned problems following the author's earlier thesis and focuses on the modern stage in the development of fans' texts including memes and demotivators posted by users of social networking services and conveying the values already expressed in the older form of subcultural creative work-fanfiction.

Keywords: Harry Potter, Rowling, fanfiction, text, demotivator, potterheads, subculture, values, fandom

1. Introduction

The multicultural nature of the modern Russian society makes it possible to distinguish a great number of communities and subcultures, as well as their unique attitudes to cultural codes and peculiar ways of interpreting or adjusting those codes taking into account subcultural norms and values. Some previous research on young adult subcultures in Mari El Republic (Russia) (Zolotova & Efimova, 2013; Zolotova & Sitnova, 2010) point to numerous facts of connection between youth subcultural creative work and old cultural patterns (traditional folklore, classics) or today's cultural models (mass literature, mainstream cinema). Thus, it seems important to study communities and subcultures formed on the Internet (sites devoted to activities of different subcultures) and in various social media (social networking services, blogs, virtual game worlds etc.) (Ahlqvist, 2008) or those coming from real life and just emulated on the Web.

The subculture of fans of the Harry Potter series (labeled as potterheads in the English-speaking world) has been known in Russia since 2000-s. In 2003 the author of the article began her research on J. Rowling's books in the aspect of the writer's usage of mythological universal and national British motives in the plot, settings and images of the series. Unexpectedly, a great number of related texts of non-commercial character were discovered on the Internet. Those narratives were resorted to as fanfics (or fanfiction) by Internet users and looked like continuations or alternative versions of Rowling's storyline and settings. Texts by anonymous Internet authors varied in length and quality but one could definitely state they shared a core that was not restricted to formal borrowing of Rowling's characters or manner. The idea of understanding the underlying principles of how and why the texts were built and what they owe to Rowling's interpretation of mythological motives seemed challenging. Moreover, by the beginning of 2000-s fanfiction had not been introduced as a material for scientific analysis in Russia. These two reasons made it possible to expand the thesis adding another chapter on mythological archetypes in fanfiction, its classification and connections to professional literature and folklore. In 2005 the thesis was completed while the Harry Potter series went on. Consequently, the fandom grew; due to the successful screen versions of the books there emerged new fans and the amount of fanfiction increased. J. Rowling put the finishing touches to the series in 2007 having published the novel Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; the final movie was released in 2011; however, eight years after the last book was written the Harry Potter fandom is extremely prolific as it is supposed to be the largest fanfiction community (Monroe, 2013). …

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