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There and Back Again: Tales of Fanfiction from the English Classroom

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This talk explores the use of fanfiction, writing that recycles and reimagines existing characters and storylines from books, movies and television, as a pedagogical tool in the English classroom to bridge both literary and language learning. It follows the implementation of The Blogging Hobbit, a task-based fanfiction project based on Tolkien’s The Hobbit, that was carried out as part of a course for students in a teacher education program at Malmö University and explores the outcomes and challenges that emerged.

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There and Back Again: Tales of Fanfiction from the English Classroom

  1. 1. There and Back Again Shannon Sauro Malmö University Shannon.sauro@mah.se
  2. 2. Bridging the Language & Literature Divide Within ELT and foreign language teacher education in general, there is an interest in bridging the long-standing division between literary studies and language training. (Paran, 2008).
  3. 3. "writing that continues, interrupts, reimagines, or just riffs on stories and characters other people have already written about." (Jamison, 2013 p. 17) Fanfiction
  4. 4. Inspiration for task and technology and model from the Harry Potter role play fanfic community, Darkness Rising, on LiveJournal. • Communal Blog • Individual players/writers participated using blogs made for their character • Stories begin with a prompt or background in a post. • The story evolves in nested comments (Sauro, 2014)
  5. 5. • Malmö University • Secondary school English teacher education program • Children’s literature course • 1st and 3rd semester students • Organized into groups of 2-6 • Cohort 2013 (n=55) • Cohort 2014 (n= 80) Context & Participants
  6. 6. The Blogging Hobbit A task-based fanfiction project (Sauro, 2014) culminating in the writing of a collaborative story of a missing moment from Tolkien’s The Hobbit and published in a blog or online fanfiction archive. Task 1: Story outline and map. Task 2: Blog-based collaborative role-play fanfiction Task3: Reflective Paper
  7. 7. develop an outline of major plot points of a collaborative story that consists of a missing moment from The Hobbit & create a map of an unchartered section of Middle Earth in which this story takes place. Task 1: Outline & Map
  8. 8. Build upon the outline and map generate in Part I to write a blog- based collaborative story (role-play story) based on a missing moment from The Hobbit. Each writer will select one character and contribute 6 paragraphs to the story from that character’s voice and perspective. Task 2: Collaborative Fanfiction
  9. 9. 1. What did the collaborative role-play writing process require you to pay careful attention to? 2. Describe at least two linguistic features of your character’s style of speaking or thinking that you were careful to include. Task 3: Reflective Paper 3. In what way can creative writing like this influence the development of reading, writing, listening and conversation skills in English?
  10. 10. Guiding Questions 1. What kind of learning results from fanfiction tasks like these? 2. How does classroom fanfiction compare to real world fanfiction? 3. Can such tasks be motivating to non-fans?
  11. 11. Focus group Interview with “The Dream Team” – an intact group (n=6) comprised of fans and nonfans from Cohort 2014 who chose to publish their 16,000 word story in a fanfiction archive (Ao3) instead of a blog. Completed Fanfiction Stories (n=31) – Cohorts 2013 & 2014, collaborative fanfiction based on a missing moment from Tolkien’s The Hobbit. (Each ranging from 2000-16,000 words) Reflective Essays (n=122) – Cohorts 2013 & 2014 Hobbit Fanfiction from Ao3 (n=13) – Nov 2014-Jan 2015 The Data
  12. 12. “this writing activity has influenced my language skills…. During this project I have been able to expand my repertoar [sic] of English words which are not so commonly used in everyday English anymore.” (Student 14, Cohort 2013) “I am not that much of a reader of fiction compared to others and I feel that my vocabulary have increased when it come to creative writing.” (Student 30, Cohort 2013)
  13. 13. “[a]fter a short while, the writing became very fluent and I did not have to think too hard before writing” (Student 40, Cohort 2013)
  14. 14. It is lying still, yet it spins around It tries to move but its body is bound All because of the precious it stole Fool us again and they eats it whole. (from The Mirkwood Mysteries)
  15. 15. The Dream Team “I think I identify myself as a fan. I think I’ve always done that, or at least to some degree, like, had a special interest in something.” E (male) “I identify as a fan since, like, the beginning of time.” B (female) “In doing the Blogging Hobbit, I realized, I’m not a fan. People are a lot more crazy than I am.” K (female) “I’m not a hardcore fan, but I am a fan of stuff.” F (female) “I suppose I’m a fan. My first fandom, if you can call it that, is classical literature.” M (female) “I’ve never really self-identified as a fan of anything, but I suppose I’m the most involved in the discussion of Doctor Who.” L (male)
  16. 16. “Fanfics that get really popular, they kind of answer to some kind of fantasy that people have about the characters. Or something they really want to explore or they create an alternate universe … We didn’t have anything like that, really. I mean, I think ours was very, kind of, very much like the book it a way, so maybe it wasn’t as exciting as some other fanfiction because it wasn’t innovating in that way… We were trying to make it look like it could actually be a part of the book. So I think that’s the difference as well between what we did and we planned and what’s on fanfiction forums.” (B. Dream Team Interview)
  17. 17. Keyword Analysis Corpus-based analysis that allows for identification of the most significant differences between two corpora. “key word”, “a word that occurs with unusual frequency in a given text” (Scott 1997, p. 236).
  18. 18. The Corpora Learner Fanfiction (172,911) • N=31 stories produced by Cohorts 2013 & 2014 • 2000-16000 words each • Rated Teen • Gen • Canon compliant Ao3 Fanfiction (92,760) • N=18 stories posted Dec 1 2013 – Jan 31, 2015 • 2000-16000 words each • Rated Teen • Gen (no het or slash) • Not alternate universe or other sub-genres
  19. 19. Third Person Plural Pronouns: we, our, us Character Names: Gandalf, Beorn, Balin, Elrond, Gollum, Dori, Bombur, Bilbo Species: dwarves, goblins, wizard, elves Less Common Irregular Plural: dwarfs Keywords in Learner Fanfiction
  20. 20. Third person singular pronouns: she, her, his, him Kinship terms: son, sister, mother, brother, uncle Character names: Thranduil, Legolas, Tauriel, Bifur Contracted forms: d, s, re, t Negative Keywords
  21. 21. “A fan is a person with a relatively deep positive emotional conviction about someone or something famous, usually expressed through a recognition of style or creativity.” (Duffet, 2013, p. 18) What is a Fan?
  22. 22. For some people, it was just a school project. And I don’t think it was just a school project for us in that way. People were like, I want to get it done…. People were like, on my god this one person in my group hasn’t done anything. I’m doing all the work. (B., Dream Team Interview)
  23. 23. Motivating & Demotivating NonFans People associate The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit with a lot of lore, a lot of hardcore fans and all of that. And maybe it’s kind of scaring people off a bit. (B. , Dream Team Interview) Maybe we should use, like, a book or movie that no one knows that well because you always find fans like The Hobbit or Tolkien or Sherlock Holmes or something. (K., Dream Team Interview) I think you would have chosen something that would be more suitable for the pop culture of our day and age. (E., Dream Team Interview)
  24. 24. “The slippery slope idea assumes that fandom feeds a twisted journey into murderous obsession that can draw an otherwise sane individual from normality to violent insanity through their engagement with popular culture.” (Duffett, 2013, p. 95)
  25. 25. “…I would choose another book. I felt it unfair to work with The Hobbit on such a project since a big part was to connect with a character from the book and write from that perspective. To choose a book with absolutely no women at all made me not wanting to take neither Tolkien nor this assignment to heart.” (Nonfan, Cohort 2014)
  26. 26. “It has also made me appreciate fiction in a way I have never done before. I am even reading The Lord of the Rings now, which is very unlike me.” (Nonfan of Fiction, Cohort 2014)
  27. 27. In Sum 1. Language development included word learning, writing fluency, and fiction writing skills. 2. Pedagogical fanfiction’s resemblance to RL fanfiction is clearly influencedby characteristics of the assignment. 3. Motivation varies among nonfans and may be addressed through providing less ‘fannish’ source texts with a range of characters.
  28. 28. References Duffett, M. (2013). Understanding fandom: An introduction to the study of media fan culture. New York/London: Bloomsbury. Jamison, A. (2013). ‘Why Fic?’ in A. Jamison (ed.). Fic: Why fanfiction is taking over the world. Dallas, TX: Smart Pop Books. Lin, A.Y.M. (22 March 2015). Agency, language learning, and creative digital content production. Paper presented at the American Association for Applied Linguistics, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Paran, A. (2008). The role of literature in instructed foreign language learning and teaching: An evidence-based survey. Language Teaching 41(4), 465-496. Sauro, S. (2014). Lessons from the fandom: Task models for technology-enhanced language learning. In M. González-Lloret & L. Ortega (Eds). Technology-mediated TBLT: Researching technology and tasks, (pp. 239-262). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Sauro, S., & Sundmark, B. (Under review). Report from Middle Earth: Fanfiction tasks in the EFL classroom. Scott, M. (1997). PC analysis of key words - and key key words. System 25, 233-245.

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