‘How come most people don't see it?’: Slashing the Lord of the Rings.
Social Semiotics, 17(1) pp. 43–62.
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The now well-established fan tradition of “slash fiction” locates homoerotic undercurrents beneath the surface of popular films, television serials, and books, from Star Trek to Pride and Prejudice. The encoding/decoding model of media production and reception has recently been used to explain how enthusiasts of slash fiction are able to discern subtexts invisible to the majority of readers and viewers, with those enthusiasts’ discussions of texts being cited as evidence; here, it is argued that this mis-characterises complex rhetorical manoeuvres as transparent reports on private comprehension processes. A sample of online fan discourse regarding one particular homoerotic pairing is analysed, it being proposed that reception study as a whole must re-conceptualise the data upon which it most heavily relies; namely, spoken or written reports of encounters with texts. This forms part of an ongoing project employing discursive psychology and the study of argumentation to investigate reading and textual culture.
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