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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Comparative Literature

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Maria Tymoczko

Subject Categories

Comparative Literature


This dissertation explores the relationship between rewritings of source texts and their cultural contexts in an attempt to raise the prestige of fan fiction. In these early years of the twenty-first century, it's becoming increasingly clear that we're living in a “participatory culture,” in which consumers of texts are becoming more and more engaged with the texts they are consuming. Producers of films and television shows create fictional websites for fans to visit and continue interacting with the stories outside of their regular viewing schedule. Fans have created their own communities, mostly online, where they analyze, debate, deconstruct, reconstruct, and continue the stories. This dissertation explores the ways in which storytelling has always included, and in many cases depended on, similar rewriting of existing texts throughout history. With separate chapters on the Homeric epics, Vergil's Aeneid, the English Renaissance, the development of literary fairy tales, Sherlock Holmes, and modern media fandom, I explore the systemic commonalities and structural similarities between different forms of vii rewriting in different settings. Using a systems framework to discuss cultural context and translation theory to discuss the impact of linguistic choices on the meaning and reception of different rewrites, I argue that fan fiction is much more than an ephemeral expression of internet culture, and belongs in a discussion of the history of literary rewriting.