One of the amazing perks of my job is that I often get to read, review, or blurb fan studies work in progress, so I can give you a sneak peek of books that are forthcoming. One of these is Jessica Hautsch’s Mind, Body, and Emotion in the Reception and Creation Practices of Fan Communities (Palgrave, released August 2023; link goes to Googlebooks, which has a substantive excerpt available for perusal), which takes approaches to fandom derived from the disciplines of cognitive psychology and performance studies.  The book’s subtitle is Thinking Through Feels, an upfront declaration of the book’s interest in feelings and embodied emotions (keysmash!). Hautsch looks to the body as a place of thinking, making the feminist, performance-based case that emotion and analysis are not oppositional—certainly not in fandom! Her central idea is “critical closeness” (as opposed to our old friend, “critical distance”); she defines critical closeness as “a mode of reading and response that is deeply emotional, embodied, and communal.” In this way, Hautsch’s work vibes with those strands of literary theory that are trying to develop new, more emotion-based theories of reading. But perhaps because of her interest in the body, Hautsch is not interested only in fic:  this book also has a refreshingly broad approach to fanworks, with chapters on GIFs, fancasting, and vids. 

Here’s a sample from the introductory/theoretical chapter, in which Hautsch lays out her arguments and contexts:

The bodily and emotional traces of fan reception can be tracked through the fanworks posted to sites like Tumblr, YouTube, and AO3. Fic, gif sets, and vids are not evidence of thinking, but acts of thinking. These fanworks form part of the cognitive system of fandom; when we read fic, look at gif sets, and watch vids, we are not just looking at examples of what other fans have thought, but are invited to participate in a dynamic exchange, encouraged to think with and through these fanworks. Thinking is not something that happens in the disembodied mind of the individual fan, but is an embodied, emotional, and communal act that emerges from fans’ interactions with media texts, technological interfaces, and fan collectives. By posting fanworks, by commenting on and reblogging them, fans form networks, create and engage with communities, and generate and shape the cultural environments in and through which they think. Research in the cognitive sciences—arguing that our minds are extended, embodied, and distributed—can help us to understand how fans construct communities of practice and rehearse critically close strategies for engaging with and responding to texts.

–Francesca Coppa, fanhackers volunteer

Thinking Through Feels