Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture is a non-fiction book written by aca-fan Henry Jenkins and originally published in It was massively influential in the development of fan studies and coincidentally introduced many new fans to media fandom. The book's focus is on media fans as an "interpretive community" that "poaches" media texts in order to subvert their intended meaning and reclaim ownership of popular culture from massive corporate interests. In Jenkins' words, the book "documents a group insistent on making meaning from materials others have characterized as trivial and worthless. The book was published before commercial Internet service providers allowed mass access, and to some fans now, appears dated in its focus on old-school slash fandom.
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Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture is a non-fiction book written by aca-fan Henry Jenkins and originally published in It was massively influential in the development of fan studies and coincidentally introduced many new fans to media fandom. The book's focus is on media fans as an "interpretive community" that "poaches" media texts in order to subvert their intended meaning and reclaim ownership of popular culture from massive corporate interests.
In Jenkins' words, the book "documents a group insistent on making meaning from materials others have characterized as trivial and worthless. The book was published before commercial Internet service providers allowed mass access, and to some fans now, appears dated in its focus on old-school slash fandom.
However it remains a sympathetic and insightful book about media fans and our creative community. It features chapters about fanac fan activities like fanfic , fan art , vidding , and filk. Some of the book was originally an essay published in the journal Critical Studies in Mass Communication in Textual Poachers has a quote that fans often employed in discussion, and as a statement, on their websites, particularly in the late s and early s: .
In , Henry Jenkins spoke at great length about the book's conception, reception, influence, the doors it opened and closed , and the effect it had on his career. In when Poachers came out I never imagined that it would still be in print a decade later, let alone still being actively taught. I saw Poachers as provisional work, as tentative work. This was the work of some guy one year out of grad school; yeah, it opened up the field and asked some important questions, but it wasn't set in stone.
In the academic world I was truly puny; I was not yet a heavy-weight by any stretch of the imagination, so that this book carried the authority it did was a little disarming. In his discussion of various fan activities, Jenkins used examples of then-current fandoms and fannish moments that now offer a glimpse into history:. While the majority of "Textual Poachers" is not about slash , it was one of the first academic books to address it respectfully and thoughtfully.
At a panel at Escapade , Jenkins described his beginning awareness of slash and what he felt were its possibilities:. A lot of fans I know like his book quite a bit better. She Camille makes it very clear at all times that she is just an observer; Henry is more willing to call himself a fan as well, of course, as an observer of fans. He had the guts to prints slash art, though most of it is pros i. Still, I appreciated him doing it. Camille chicked out, and didn't include slash art.
She said protecting the artist. I have a feeling it was to keep her publisher sweet. It also has a chapter on songvids; including slash songvids, and another on filksongs. More importantly, they have vastly different theses. Hers appears to be fandom is a way of dealing with pain and risk in our 'normal' lives. It totally begs the question of why fandom?
She especially makes the point that fan writers are writing to deal with pain. My question is how is that different than pro writers, many of whom have stated over the years that they write to exorsise sp, sorry devils. What makes fan writing different. Henry's thesis is more simple. He is just writing to refute another writer who said that readers can interact with written materials.
He uses media fandom to say, bullshit. Look at these people interacting with these images, playing with them, adjusting them, etc. Like the poachers of old, fans operate from a position of marginality and social weakness. Like other popular readers, fans lack direct access to the means of commercial cultural production and have only the most limited resources with which to influence the entertainment industry's decisions.
Fans must beg with the networks to keep their favorite shows on the air, must lobby producers to provide desired plot developments, or to protect the integrity of favorite characters. Within the cultural economy, fans are peasants, not proprietors, a recognition which must contextualize our celebration of strategies of popular resistance.
It's a study of media fandom, and it's rational and interesting. Jenkins steers a realistic middle course between the get-a-life stereotype and the rose-colored view that fandom is an extended ideal family.
He got a lot of input from fans and he treats us like people who are engaged in activities which interest him, rather than as case studies in maladjustment.
My granted, brief experience of Henry Jenkins was that he was a fan who had managed to turn his hobby into a meal ticket, about which he was tickled but surprised. I have it on good authority that he quoted no-one by name without express permission, and he made every attempt to avoid potential misunderstandings or problems by having fellow-fen proof his work before printing. I may not always agree with what he says, but I do believe he went out of his way to be fair and accurate.
Jenkins attended late night viewing marathons, mediazine collating parties, and conventions for over ten years before he published his book. Some of these informal gatherings may have influenced his findings of fandom as a participatory culture; that media fandom is an ACTIVE forum, not just the passivity of watching a television series. Jenkins sees fans as participating in a large, diverse community and accepting an identity which is belittled or criticized by institutional authorities.
He also observed that a significant number of media fans are women, have college degrees and are employed in occupations where they are underpaid and their creative skills are not utilized. The above description fits me, as well as friends in my little fan posse: one bookkeeper, one free-lance researcher, three librarians, one nurse, one secretary, and a teacher! In his book, Jenkins examines the end products of fan interactions: fan fiction, mediazines, fan art , fan music videos , and filk music.
Psychological and ethnographic conclusions are kept to a minimum. So, because of his book a few more people think we are weird. Big deal having accepted my weirdness, this does not deeply disturb me. Maybe, because of his book, a few more people get turned on to the idea of slash. That would be nice. THose of us on the list with a more analytic turn of mind, whether we be academes or no, poke and prod and examine our feelings and thoughts, and those of you all anyhow.
We share most of those thoughts and are agreed or disagreed with. Yes, a book does lend an air of validation that is often spurious, but the books have provided interesting controversy in and of themselves. I think the academic slant is just another aspect of fandom as a whole. There seems to be a rising climate of Academophobia. Agreed I wouldn't want an academic on the list who was only there to poke and prod, and had no passion for slash. Personally, I couldn't care less if they want to write about it academically, as long as they get approval for direct quotes.
Henry Jenkins examines television fans — people like us — who actively participate in the "text" of a specific show. This book presents the culture of fandom in a refreshingly positive light. Jenkins describes fan experience; he reveals how intimately the characters and storylines of a show become known to the select group of vieuers called fans. Fans absorb everything they can about the show and create their own expectations and desires for the show.
He carefully points out that this is not obsession, but rather a keen and multi-faceted interest. Usually fans see broader meanings and significance's within the dialogue, actions and plots of the show; they take the show and use it as a foundation. Much is built upon this basis, intelligence and creativity are fostered. Several philosophical aspects are discussed in relation to watching television episodes.
One involves meaning. Authorial meaning is the intended meaning; the writer purposefully creates a specific reference. Fan-interpreted meaning is gained through the fan's perspective. It often goes far beyond the authorial meaning. It occasionally can diverge drastically from the intended meaning presented originally by the author. A second aspect is the concept of double-viewing.
Here, we see the characters as real, we react to then as solid and true and yet we also know that they are constructed entities — speaking lines from the writer's pen, moving according to the whim of a director — and we are capable of seeing them in both realms.
Jenkin's vehicle for examining the process of active participation when fan-interpreted meaning differs from authorial meaning. He wanted to present a case study where fans truly did follow there own sense of the show; the core meaning of the story-line in their eyes being obliterated against their will.
Hurray here for Classic fandonm. He reveals that in writing the chapter about the third season fiasco, he was approached by some third season fans who felt he was being too negative towards the series. He responded by saying that Classic fans had developed an expectation about the story-line and the characters based upon what had been presented to them. He applauds that action as intelligent and creative; it actually symbolizes his entire premise that fans can and do exercise free thinking when they participate in television.
He states that theirs is a relationship that breaks through restrictive gender identities; both individuals have strong as well as gentle sides. They seem so equal, filling the void and supporting each other so naturally, Mutual trust, commitment, nurturing; they complete one another.
A chapter on fan fiction, 'zine writing and publishing, is a nice overview. Fanzines are called into action whenever the television episodes fall short. Sometimes the fans just need more, other times they need to expand or alter the story-lines. Jenkins explains that slash isn't written primarily by or for gay fans, but that it is a sub-culture of straight female writers and readers who enjoy the implied level of equality inherent in such same-sex relationships.
In many stories, the female character is weaker so a same sex relationship eliminates a weaker partner. That's the theory anyway, according to Jenkins. In the book, fans and fandom are portrayed as well-rounded, creative and intelligent. The culture of fandom is described as thoughtful and philosophical. In his attempt to bring credibility to us, I agree that the book is wonderful.
However there could have been additional points cited in order to broaden that belief. I feel that Jenkins failed to explain how fans reach out into the world at large. He tries to paint fans as healthy, emotionally stable people yet he falls short of detailing the many ways in which participatory can evolve into community involvement.
Another oversight is the lack of mention of fan talent.
Confessions of an Aca-Fan
Yet, as Textual Poachers argues, fans already have a "life," a complex subculture which draws its resources from commercial culture while also reworking them to serve alternative interests. Rejecting stereotypes of fans as cultural dupes, social misfits, and mindless consumers, Jenkins represents media fans as active producers and skilled manipulators of program meanings, as nomadic poachers constructing their own culture from borrowed materials, as an alternative social community defined through its cultural preferences and consumption practices. Written from an insider's perspective and providing vivid examples from fan artifacts, Textual Poachers offers an ethnographic account of the media fan community, its interpretive strategies, its social institutions and cultural practices, and its troubled relationship to the mass media and consumer capitalism. Drawing on the work of Michel de Certau, Jenkins shows how fans of Star Trek, Blake's 7, The Professionals, Beauty and the Beast, Starsky and Hutch, Alien Nation, Twin Peaks, and other popular programs exploit these cultural materials as the basis for their stories, songs, videos, and social interatctions. Addressing both academics and fans, Jenkins builds a powerful case for the richness of fan culture as a popular response to the mass media and as a challenge to the producers' attempts to regulate textual meanings.
This book, my first, is now twenty years old meaning that it is old enough to drink and vote and that means that I am old enough to When I wrote this book as a first year assistant professor, I would never have anticipated the impact it would have and I certainly would not have imagined that Routledge would be willing to reissue it to mark the twentieth anniversary of its publication. One of the challenges of producing this edition was the struggle to come up with the right approach to the cover design. To be honest, it was very hard for me to let go of the original cover, which was constructed around a wonderful piece of Star Trek fan art by Jean Kluge, which my wife, Cynthia, had bought for me as a gift at MediaWest and which had been close at hand throughout the process of drafting the book. But, in the end, we were able to produce a cover I am really very proud of -- in collaboration with a contemporary fan artist who has chosen to go here by the name of GLM:. My hopes for the new cover were that it should represent, as the original did, the work of a fan artist and it should employ an aesthetic that grows out of the fan community's own modes of cultural production; that it should represent a transformative use of existing source material; and that it should suggest the dynamic nature of fandom, which has absorbed new content and embraced new forms of production since the original book was published This cover embodies the new aesthetic of photo-manipulation, which remains controversial among some fans but which has also represented a clear demonstration of the way that fans turn borrowed materials into resource for their own collective expression.
Smith on Jenkins, 'Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture'
The twentieth anniversary edition of Henry Jenkins's Textual Poachers brings this now-canonical text to a new generation of students interested in the intersections of fandom, participatory culture, popular consumption and media theory. Supplementing the original, classic text is an interview between Henry Jenkins and Suzanne Scott in which Jenkins reflects upon changes in the field since the original release of Textual Poachers. A study guide by Louisa Stein helps provides instructors with suggestions for the way Textual Poachers can be used in the contemporary classroom, and study questions encourage students to consider fan cultures in relation to consumer capitalism, genre, gender, sexuality, and more. This is an excellent book.
Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture
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