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'“How Come Most People Don't See It?”: Slashing the Lord of the Rings',

'“How Come Most People Don't See It?”: Slashing the Lord of the Rings',

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Published by Paul Miers
Daniel Allingtona, Department of English Studies, The University of Stirling, UK. Social
Semiotics, 17: 1, 43 — 62
Daniel Allingtona, Department of English Studies, The University of Stirling, UK. Social
Semiotics, 17: 1, 43 — 62

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Published by: Paul Miers on Oct 27, 2010
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Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK
Social Semiotics
Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=t713446841
“How Come Most People Don't See It?”: Slashing
the Lord of the Rings
Daniel Allington
aa
Department of English Studies, The University of Stirling, UK
To cite this Article
Allington, Daniel(2007) '“How Come Most People Don't See It?”: Slashing
the Lord of the Rings 
', SocialSemiotics, 17: 1, 43 — 62
To link to this Article: DOI:
10.1080/10350330601124650
URL:
Full terms and conditions of use:http://www.informaworld.com/terms-and-conditions-of-access.pdfThis article may be used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial orsystematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-licensing, systematic supply ordistribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contentswill be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae and drug dosesshould be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss,actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directlyor indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
 
‘‘How Come Most PeopleDon’t See It?’’: Slashing
TheLord of the Rings
Daniel Allington
The now well-established fan tradition of ‘slash fiction’locates homoeroticundercurrents beneath the surface of popular films, television serials, and books,from
Star Trek
to
Pride and Prejudice
. The encoding/decoding model of mediaproduction and reception has recently been used to explain how enthusiasts ofslash fiction are able to discern subtexts invisible to the majority of readers andviewers, with those enthusiasts’ discussions of texts being cited as evidence;here, it is argued that this mis-characterises complex rhetorical manoeuvres astransparent reports on private comprehension processes. A sample of online fandiscourse regarding one particular homoerotic pairing is analysed, it beingproposed that reception study as a whole must re-conceptualise the data uponwhich it most heavily relies; namely, spoken or written reports of encounterswith texts. This forms part of an ongoing project employing discursive psychologyand the study of argumentation to investigate reading and textual culture.
Keywords
Slash; readers; audience; fans; reception; interpretation; rhetoric;discourse analysis; discursive psychology;
The Lord of the Rings
Introduction
Prototypically, slash fiction is a form of fan fiction (i.e. fiction written by and forfans on a not-for-profit basis) that centres around romantic and/or sexualencounters and relationships between same-sex characters drawn from the massmedia. Slash fiction is distinguished from camp re-writings of mass media textsby being created primarily by and for female fans, and the term is usedcontrastively with ‘‘het fiction’’ (romantic or erotic fan fiction featuring mixed-sex character pairings) and ‘‘gen fiction’’ (fan fiction without romantic or sexualstorylines). This definition is problematic, as we can readily see from theexistence of slash fiction that is not fan fiction (e.g. involving pairings ofhistorical personages, such as Alexander Hamilton and John Laurens), but itseems less so than more specific definitions: I have, for example, avoided thefrequently reiterated claim that slash is written by and for
heterosexual
ISSN 1035-0330 print/1470-1219 online/07/010043-20
#
2007 Taylor & FrancisDOI: 10.1080/10350330601124650SOCIAL SEMIOTICS VOLUME 17 NUMBER 1 (MARCH 2007)
 D o w nl o ad ed  A t : 19 :46 27  O c t ob e r 2010
 
females, since this is contradicted by the self-identification of a significantminority of readers and writers of slash as lesbian or bisexual.The word ‘‘slash’’, which derives from the forward slash conventionally usedto conjoin the names of paired characters (e.g. ‘Kirk/Spock’or ‘Aragorn/Legolas’’, abbreviated to ‘K/S’and ‘A/L’, respectively), has enjoyed aninteresting etymological development: it can function as a synonym of ‘‘slashfiction’’, and also as a verb, referring to the consumption of texts that do notfeature overt homosexuality (e.g.
Star Trek
and
The Lord of the Rings
) asromantic or erotic representations of homosexual desire. It has also yielded thenoun ‘slasher’
 *
/
one who participates in slash-inflected activities
 *
/
and theadjective ‘‘slashy’’
 *
/
homoerotic. The noun ‘‘femslash’’ designates slash fictionwhere the primary pairing is female
 Á 
/
female, which structures such stories asoutside the norm, since there is no equivalent marker for slash featuringspecifically male
 Á 
/
male pairings. The phrase ‘‘real person slash’’ (RPS) has beencoined to designate slash fiction that pairs non-fictional mass media personas(usually contemporary celebrities, e.g. Viggo Mortensen and Orlando Bloom),and, much as the popularity of slash has required non-slash fan fiction to be re-classified as gen fiction or het fiction, the popularity of this new form may soonrequire non-RPS slash fiction to be re-classified as ‘fictional person slash’’.Although slash is regarded with horror by many in film and television (mostnotoriously, George Lucas), this attitude is far from ubiquitous, and it is hard toavoid the suspicion that media industry creatives have begun to draw on slash forinspiration (as in the BBC science fiction series
Torchwood 
).Slash occasionally features in the mainstream media
 *
/
for example, Empire’s(2006) misinformed and sensationalist article on RPS
 *
/
and the study of it is agrowth area in academia, with enquiries being published into many aspects of theslash phenomenon, from the literary qualities of the stories (Pugh 2004) to whatthey are alleged to reveal about evolutionary psychology (Salmon and Symons2001); this ever-gathering wave of publications dates back to the classic studiesof the early 1990s, which established slash as an academically respectable topic.The reception of mass media texts by slashers (and fans more generally) wastheorised as a form of cultural resistance by Penley (1991) and Jenkins (1992) instudies whose very titles announce their allegiance to de Certeau (1988), loadedas they were with references to his terminology; see also Fiske’s (1992) use ofBourdieu’s (1984) very different theories to achieve an almost identical result.This soon led to accusations that ‘‘an almost uncritical celebration of fans as‘resisters’’’ (Barker 1993, 180) was becoming a cultural studies shibboleth. Morerecent studies of slash reception (for example, Gwenllian Jones 2002; Woledge2005) have rejected the paradigm of ‘‘resistance’’; this paper is intended as acontribution both to that tradition and to empirical reception study moregenerally
 *
/
see Machor and Goldstein (2001) and Staiger (2005) for overviews ofthe field. The primary innovations here are the use of discursive psychology(Edwards and Potter 1992; Edwards 1997) to re-theorise the sense in which‘‘actual speech’’ is the ‘‘primary data’’ of reception study (Morley 1992, 124),and the use of categories developed for the study of legal and philosophical44 D. ALLINGTON
 D o w nl o ad ed  A t : 19 :46 27  O c t ob e r 2010

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