Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Speculative fiction and media fandom through a lens, darkly
by Carrington, Andre, Ph.D., New York University, 2009, 343; 3380296
Abstract (Summary)

The liminal space where race meets genre on unconventional terms tends to elude criticism of black expressive cultures as well as conventional literary and cinematic science fiction studies. Scholarship has failed to recognize the significance of race in the circuit of cultural production that produces speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, and utopia). This dissertation tracks the critical engagement of speculative fiction audiences with blackness, through the interpretive strategies fans have contributed to the development of popular media. I argue that the meanings of blackness in speculative fiction, from touchstones for utopian thinking to critiques of globalization, emerge from participatory culture: media fandom reimagines racial marginality as a driving force for critical innovation. By recovering the creative acts of interpretation that suture blackness to speculative fiction in the popular imagination, this dissertation treats encounters between the marginal and the popular in 20th century cultural production as points of departure for a new map of the field of cultural production.

This dissertation examines works of print fiction, amateur publishing, film, television, adaptation, comics, and archiving on the internet as part of a circuit between the producers and consumers of culture who negotiate the meanings of blackness in the popular imagination. Chapter 1 uncovers strategies for performing racial identity and subverting genre traditions in fanzines from the 1950s. Chapter 2 criticizes the limits imposed on black womanhood in utopian television, film, and graphic narratives throughout the 1970s, while feminist science fiction flourished in print. In Chapter 3, I analyze how fan correspondence in comic books featuring black superheroes staged critical exchanges about the medium's relationship to literature, its business practices, and the sexual politics of the urban United States. Chapter 4 renovates scholarly approaches to adaptation, examining novelization and television as reflections of science fiction's racial past. The final chapter presents an online fan fiction archive as an outlet for diasporic identities and nonheteronormative desires in contemporary global cyberculture. By examining how fans have contributed to the formation of genre traditions, this dissertation seeks to break open the cultural politics that inhibit creative ways of thinking about race in popular culture.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Munoz, Jose
Commitee: Harper, Philip B., Parikh, Crystal, Reid-Pharr, Robert F., Ross, Andrew
School: New York University
Department: Program in American Studies
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 70/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Modern literature, American studies, Black studies, Mass communications
Keywords: Fan cultures, Genre, Media studies, Popular culture, Race, Science fiction fantasy and utopia, Speculative fiction
Publication Number: 3380296
ISBN: 9781109507478
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