Every month the OTW hosts guest posts on our OTW News accounts to provide an outside perspective on the OTW or aspects of fandom. These posts express each individual’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy.
Peizhen Wu is a Ph.D. candidate in English Literary Studies at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. As a Chinese citizen living abroad, she thinks critically about boundaries, identities, and trans-cultural influences. She writes about fan fiction, queerness, science fiction, and Digital Humanities. Today, Peizhen talks about her article in Transformative Works and Cultures.
How did you first find out about fandom and fanworks?
My initial encounter with fandom and fanworks arose during my high school years when I began reading Marvel fanfiction on Fanfiction.net. The abundance of creative works and the high level of interactivity within the community greatly captivated my interest, prompting me to delve deeper into this domain.
What was the path you took to teaching fanfiction in college classes?
My inclination towards incorporating fanfiction into college classes developed as I engaged with undergraduate students in other courses that I taught. Upon sharing my research focus on fanfiction with them, their enthusiastic response became apparent. Several students even sought me out during office hours to engage in further discussions on the subject.
Some of these students were themselves fanfiction writers, expressing a keen desire to understand how this domain, often perceived as dominated by amateur writing, could be approached from an academic perspective. Concurrently, within my department and institution, there exists a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary studies, with fanfiction proving to be a valuable source for interdisciplinary exploration. Armed with these considerations, I embarked on designing a fanfiction course, which I had the opportunity to teach in the fall of 2021.
What was the most rewarding part to you about this addition to a trans studies curriculum?
The most gratifying aspect of incorporating fanfiction into a trans studies curriculum lies in providing both undergraduate students and myself with an avenue to explore interdisciplinary trans studies through the medium of fanworks. Although many students are already familiar with queer culture through their engagement with fanfiction (a relatively queer-friendly space), the specific lens of trans studies often remains underrepresented. Facilitating students’ familiarity with trans studies through a subject of their interest is undeniably thrilling.
Additionally, as an instructor, I have the opportunity to seamlessly move between the roles of a scholar and an educator in trans studies, which proves both rewarding and invigorating.
How did you hear about the OTW and what do you see its role as?
Regarding awareness of the OTW, I initially became acquainted with it as a fan when I started utilizing Archive of Our Own (AO3) in 2015. Since then, AO3 has provided me with a source of immense joy.
As I entered the field of fan studies, AO3 became an invaluable resource for analysis, particularly from the perspective of Digital Humanities, where a substantial body of primary works is required. Furthermore, Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC) offers critical discussions on fans and fandom, which have greatly aided my academic pursuits.
What fandom things have inspired you the most?
In terms of influential factors within fandom, the remarkable accessibility of fanworks has been an immense inspiration for me, both as a fan and as a scholar of fandom. This accessibility challenges the elitist notion that artistic and literary creation is exclusive to “professionals.”
Fandom serves as a space where every individual’s contributions are valued and appreciated. This inclusive ethos breaks down the barriers between high and low culture, rendering humanities and social science studies more approachable for a wider audience.