Representation of Harry Potter Communities in Fanfiction

2643 words (11 pages) Essay

18th May 2020 Cultural Studies Reference this

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How Harry Potter communities represent themselves in fanfiction.net?

A critical discourse analysis of the representation of subcultures on the mainstream.

This essay incorporates various text analysing methods such as concordance, collocation analysis, keyword analysis etc. on the corpus collected from the source. The tools used for the text processing and the key findings are discussed in detail. We will further discuss this topic in reference to some other corpora analysis articles.

 

Introduction

When I heard of subculture as an option for the broad topic, I just had a vague Idea about it. Hence I did my research on this topic and found out that it is so common everywhere and is existing from the prehistoric times. To my surprise, I myself is part of a subculture and so do everyone.

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Subcultures existed all through the generations and is nothing new in a society. So, what exactly is a subculture? It is a group of people who are distinct from the majority by way of life, belief, values or norms. (Moffitt) Next, how these subcultures are formed? People who have shared interests and passions join to form a subculture. (Subculture) Sub culturalism can be identified in different contexts. A religion itself is a subculture. We already know about some of the youth subcultures. It is there within an organizational culture. (Subculture Examples)

In the key article reference for the broad topic ‘subcultures’, they pay more attention to the language than to the use of other significant attributes. They focus on the process of identity construction. The two subcultures they have portrayed, the Emos and LOHAS displays contrasting attitudes towards the mainstream. The article analyses on these differences and how it benefits in the process of identity construction. (Marko)

 

How fanfiction becomes a subculture

A fanfiction is not much a familiar term to me, at least for some of us. I was just curious to know what it is really. In this essay we will examine fanfiction (sometimes abbreviated as fanfic). Fanfiction is a creative hobbywhich has been evolved as a subculture over the time. Many of the bestsellers and much acclaimed creative works has got a big fan base. Some of these fans start writing their own plot lines using characters from the original artwork. This way they are inspired to writing on their fantasy. Anyone who admires the original works can contribute to fanfiction writing. These fictions can create new values, directions or can address some pitfalls of the original work. On the flip side some of these fantasies can go negative and is completely depends on the writer’s mindset.

Like subcultures, fanfictions were also pre-existing in the society, but not necessarily in this name. The science fiction magazines in 1920s and 1930 hold proof of this record. People were more inclined to artworks and artists in those times. Getting recognised of the talent was all hard work and thus many of the fanfiction works remained underground. (Thomas)

According to google ngram usage of the term ‘fanfiction’ began by the end of 1960s, possibly with the advent of the new technologies. Digitalising have revolutionised the whole world with a new way of life. All hard works became converted to smart works. So do fanfictions found a way for publishing and getting recognitions. They met new people, started interactions and formed groups and communities.

Fanfiction has become a modern subculture of digital times which is open to surplus opportunities. In these changed circumstances, a fanfiction writer can steadily start writing with a spark of idea and publish it instantaneously among the communities. Even smaller artforms can be published and get feedbacks on. This is of much excitement for the hardcore fans and have led to an explosion of fan activities among the whole literary world.

Fan fiction communities

FanFiction.net,Launched in October 1998, avails the largest collection of fanfictions in the world. it has currently well over 2 million users and hosts stories in over 30 languages. The total number of works is almost 8 million. The story collection achieves by the community members are managed by the active members.

The visiters and the registered users can get access of the story from the archives. All fanfictions are published with their ratings. These ratings are indicating the story content, and which are appropriate for particular users’ category. General category alone there are over 10,000 communities. The most popular sections on FanFiction is Harry Potter Books (Books) – over 650,000 stories. Anyone anywhere gets access to fanfiction.net with a mobile device and so the users can enjoy stories on the go. can

Other than FanFiction, there are multitude of popular fanfiction websites where you can find fanfiction for several topics, books, movies, or cartoons. Some of them are Quotev, Kindle Worlds, Wattpad, Archive of Our Own, Asianfanfics etc. Some of them communities list stories from single fandoms.

When it comes to legality, people are of different opinions. The fiction writers can never take the full credit of his artistry as he borrowed his characters from the original work. The fanfiction writers are aware of these limitations and their works are published in among their community members.

For the young writer’s, fanfiction is an excellent platform to start writing and developing on their skill by way of feedbacks and constructive criticism posted by their followers. It is like helping each other to produce even better works in the attempts that follows.

Anyone can join in any of these communities and publish their works free of any cost. Selected fanfic stories are legally available to buy in Kindle stores. Some of them has become became a bestseller. A good example of fanfiction that became a bestseller is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a 2009 novel written by Seth Grahame-Smith that combines modern zombie fiction with a classic novel by Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice. (Kowalczyk)

 

Exploring the discourses of Harry Potter Books communities

Getting to know about the fanfictions and the fanfic communities, I was so exited to explore it in detail to learn what is really happening in these communities. We will see how Harry Potter Books communities represent themselves in fanfiction website. We will demonstrate how we start exploring the data to arrive at the most significant and interesting findings and how we can make use of the computer assisted discourse analysis.

To begin with I have started collecting data from the fanfiction.net. Simple copying of text is prevented in this web portal. Thus, I have proceeded with the web scraper tool from google chrome that enables hassle free web scrapping. DataMiner Scraper can be used for collecting large volumes of data which can be downloaded as csv files.

As I have attempted downloading the .CSV file, I do not know what went wrong and I found my file empty. But fortunately, I find a way to copying text with this web scraper tool. Thus, I have built on the corpus by manually copying text, using google web scraper.

Corpus is a collection of vast amounts of data. Corpora analysis is a part of decision making to resolve many of the real-world issues.

There are several software tools for corpus analysis and comparison. I used Laurence Anthony’s antconc, which an effective tool for pattern identification and keyword frequencies.

The fanfiction corpus that I have built up consists of 20 text files with almost 30,000 words.

WordList is the tool for listing out the most frequent words in the corpus.

The word with the highest frequency is ‘the’ with total instances of 1273 in the corpus. The articles and the helping verbs such as I, he, , a, an, is, have, tops the list in any corpus and are called function words and are significant. Scrolling down the word list, past the very frequent function or grammatical words at the top of the list, we may make a note of any ‘content’ words that might provide an insight into the contents of the corpus. We also see that the words ‘her’ and ‘she’ tops the list which hints that the main character in the corpus is a woman. Moving further, the first content word we see is ‘hermione’ in the corpus ranking 27th position with 166 instances and ‘harry’ on 32nd position with an instance of 133. Thus, we could assume that the main 2 characters in the corpus are Hermione and Harry. The inference is that the writers, and the readers in the fanfiction.net is mostly interested in these 2 characters from the original book.

When clicking on ‘hermione’ to view them in the Concordance, gives you a sense of their context – the words that appear around them.

This tool gives us the word hermione in context referring to her friendships and some events related to that. We can also infer that she is a brilliant and a positive character.

For more deep analysis on the context file view can be accessed. We may also make use of wildcard operator to searching on the patterns.

Collocate gives you a list of words which appear most frequently together with any keyword. I tried generating collocates for ‘she’, and the result is as shown below: Some of those collocations do not make any sense to me. Then I continued experimenting with other keywords of different frequencies.

On investigating further, I learned that most of the stories revolves around Harry and Hermione and the fandoms in fanfiction.net would like to represent these 2 characters as couples, on contrast to the original book where Harry and Ginny make the couple. It is also found that the fandoms are less interested in the characters ‘Ron’ and ‘Ginny’ explicitly with concordance hits 59 and 29 respectively in comparison with the favourite characters.

Analyses from different perspectives

In one of the reference articles used here, the author refers fanfiction as multisemiotic, in the sense that being highly rich in semiotic resources such a video, images, layouts and all other than the verbal language. In her studies she identified male dominion and informal use of language in the fanfiction entries. (Sindoni)

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In another article, it identified differences in character emphasising and gender presentation. In fanfiction writings we may find more serious and important roles for the minor characters from the original work. In contrast to the finding of Sindoni, this article showcases strong female characters and more attention to female gender. It also mentions, more accurate predictions of reader response for less complex and unsophisticated writings. (Smitha Milli)

Another article that conducted comparative study on popular and unpopular fanfics in reveals that popular fanfics are stylistically less diverse. The features selected for this study are lexical richness, average sentence and paragraph lengths. (Vanessa Girouard)

This simplistic approach on fanfiction reader response has already stated in the article that we discussed earlier.

It is true that fanfic is differs in many aspects when compared to conventional and traditional aspects. And that makes it a subculture. I would like to see it as a less formal way of writing which has got its advantages:

  • Fanfiction is a creative hobby (practiced by amateur writers)
  • Fanfiction is a great platform for the budding writers to experiment with. Reading and writing will go hand in hand.
  • A great place to meat and network with people who have similar interest.
  • A great place for ardent readers to get access to fanfiction archives.
  • Sometimes it can go beyond the original work both in quality and popularity

Better consider it as an intermediate level.

The copyright law infringement issues and absence of quality rating are some of the parameters that makes it different from the mainstream. The topics including violence, adult-relations, same gender parings are all raise concern of parents. 

 

Conclusion

Fanfiction as a subculture, has its drawbacks as most things do, but it is a great tool for learning how to write. In a way or other, we are all part of a subculture. According to me, all subcultures should be adding up to the mainstream rather than being an alternative. Unity in diversity is both powerful and beautiful. So, eliminating its negative aspects, let us be open to all subcultures.

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