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Critically examining the use of blog-based fanfiction in the advanced language classroom

  • Shannon Sauro (a1) and Björn Sundmark (a2)

This paper critically examines the integration of online fanfiction practices into an advanced university English language classroom. The fanfiction project, The Blogging Hobbit, was carried out as part of a course in the teacher education program at a Swedish university for students who were specializing in teaching English at the secondary school level. Participants were 122 students who completed the course in 2013 and 2014. In both classes, students were organized into groups of three to six to write collaborative blog-based role-play fanfiction of a missing moment from JRR Tolkien’s fantasy novel The Hobbit. The 31 resulting pieces of collaborative fanfiction, the online formats they were published in, the 122 reflective essays produced by the two classes, and interviews with a focal group of participants were used to explore how technology and learners’ experience with this technology may have mediated the resulting stories. In addition, the classroom fanfiction texts were compared with comparable online writing published in the fanfiction site Archive of Our Own (Ao3) to identify thematic and stylistic differences. The results showed that students’ lack of familiarity with publishing in blogs often posed a challenge that some groups were able to overcome or exploit to facilitate or enhance the readability of their completed stories. Compared to online fanfiction, the classroom fanfiction was less innovative with respect to focal characters yet more collective in its focus, with stories being told from multiple characters’ perspectives.

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