The Intimate Fandoms of Men’s Hockey Real Person Fanfiction
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Using queer phenomenology, rhetorical genre theory, and fanfiction written about National Hockey League (NHL) athletes, this dissertation develops the concept of intimate publics of fandom: small, reciprocal and protective groups of fans who write to and for each other to assuage desires otherwise unmet by public fandom. Historically, fan scholars convincingly argued for the literary and social value of the political and interpretive work of slash fandoms that write fanfiction where two otherwise straight male characters are reimagined in a queer relationship. In this way, slash is seen as a powerful, subversive fandom that poaches material from texts that uphold oppressive norms. However, most of the slash studied has been based on fictional characters, because Real Person Fanfiction (RPF) or RPF slash is frequently seen as immoral and shameful by both fans and fan scholars. Even though RPF slash is common in many fandoms, such as boy band fandom (e.g. Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson from One Direction), or actors who are popular slash pairings (e.g. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman who play Sherlock and Watson in BBC’s Sherlock), RPF slash has not received the same scholarly attention as slash based on fictional characters. In this dissertation, I argue that this gap exists in part because of fan studies’ attachment to the metaphor of poaching to empower slash-fans as subversive interpreters, which would make RPF slash an infringement on a real person’s autonomy. Understanding that some fandoms function as intimate publics, however, makes it possible to see some RPF slash not as a subversive interpretation, but as a shelter from public fandom. To develop the framework of intimate publics of fandom, I use my experience as a hockey fan as the case for this dissertation. Through Men’s Hockey RPF, I find queer joy and community that is absent to me in the traditional, public spaces of hockey fandom. I trace this journey through 5 chapters, each addressing a different facet of intimate publics of fandom. Chapter 1 develops squatting as an alternative metaphor to poaching and argues that, where poaching comes from the antagonistic mode of suspicious reading common in literary studies, squatting comes from reparative modes of reading which do not require a hostile relationship between reader and text. Chapter 2 uses feminist literary theories and rhetorical genre theory to define intimate fandoms through hockey’s public fandom in Canada. Building on those first two chapters, the next three chapters offer close readings of my own intimate fandoms to test the usefulness of the framework. Chapter 3 demonstrates that understanding Hockey RPF slash as an intimate fandom allows us to see how fans use Hockey RPF as a shelter from the relation of cruel optimism to the NHL. Chapter 4 argues that the framework of intimate fandoms makes it more possible to see the ways in which even fanfiction that seems subversive may still uphold other norms, such as the white supremacy of hockey. Chapter 5 tests the limits of intimate fandoms by reading fanfiction that makes erotic monsters out of NHL athletes to argue that intimate fandoms help us better understand the desires that create ‘creepy’ slash. I close the dissertation with a short conclusion that reflects on the end of my attachment to hockey, and how the framework of intimate publics allows me to trace the shift in desires that move me into new intimate fandoms.
Cite this version of the work
Mari Elise Vist (2024). The Intimate Fandoms of Men’s Hockey Real Person Fanfiction. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/20232