Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

Team Bella : reimagining character portrayals and engaging with social constructions of power in Twilight fanfiction Public Deposited

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  • Online fanfiction communities have received attention for providing spaces of creativity and individual empowerment. Yet as critics have sought to establish fanfiction as a worthy object of study, many have not grappled with the ways that fanfictions not only trouble, but also reinforce various discourses and ideas of gender and power. This paper recognizes the value of analyzing fanfiction, using Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga to explore the ways fanfiction can provide a space for negotiating and reworking conventional coming-of-age narratives for young women, while also supporting and even endorsing associations amongst power, agency, violence, and masculinity. The Twilight Saga engages both a coming of age narrative for girls as well as issues of gender representation and access to power. As previous critics have shown, Meyer's canon invites the incorporation of abuse into rewritings or reimaginings of the narrative, as Bella experiences a number of traumatic events in the original text. These moments are not framed as abuse in the canon text, but fanfiction authors who self-disclose that they are writing about a "stronger" Bella have shown patterns of responding to the canon by altering the narrative to directly include abuse. The incorporation of violence within the Twilight fics suggests that the canon prompts the questioning of what a young girl character could experience when overtly seeking safety and independence. Within the selected fics, this path translates into physical violence, rejection of feminine identity, and the frustration of encountering limited access to power. This thesis engages with current critics and scholars of fanfiction, online digital spaces, and the original Twilight canon, as well as with scholarship on coming of age stories and trauma in narratives. In doing so, the thesis performs a discourse analysis of four fanfiction texts selected for this project from fanfiction.net. In treating these narratives as valuable documents, compositions, and narratives, the thesis draws upon Abigail Derecho's idea of fanfictions as archontic literature, which establishes that fanfictions are texts that archive and add variations to an idea, but are not necessarily an inferior or an unoriginal borrowing of thought. The analyses of the texts also engage theories of trauma narratives and coming of age stories to determine how fic authors are rewriting Bella as a "strong" woman. Chapter 1 focuses on how a pair of fanfiction texts imagine Bella seeking agency by reversing traditional gender roles, and Chapter 2 examines narratives that explore what happens to a female character who experiences trauma and loses the protection of traditional masculine power sources.
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