University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
JournalTransformative Works and Cultures
Publication statusSubmitted - 4 Jan 2019


In spite of the advances made within the field of fan studies over the past few decades, fan history remains a somewhat neglected subdiscipline, in part because of the methodological complications in dealing with a community of fans who may be long deceased.
This article suggests fan magazines, and particularly fan magazine letter sections, as a way for fan historians to access the views and opinions of the Classic Hollywood fans of the 1920s and 1930s, a community otherwise largely lost to history. It does so by demonstrating three different methodological approaches.
Firstly, judicious use of the freely available 1920, 1930 and 1940 US Census records can help researchers establish which letters were written by real, existing fans; further information contained in the census, then, can help establish a demographic profile of the fan magazine community as a whole.
Secondly, a content analysis of the fan letters found helps illustrate the preoccupations of particular fans at this time, as well as the way in which they established and negotiated the particular codes of behaviour within their fandom.
Thirdly, then, a focus on particular fans who wrote to the magazine repeatedly over the course of multiple years can help historians to recreate the fannish journey travelled by long-deceased fans, over the course of multiple years or even decades.

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