American Culture Studies Ph.D. Dissertations


Something Queer in His Make-Up: Genderbending, Omegaverses, and Fandom's Discontents

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Culture Studies

First Advisor

Susana Peña (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Bill Albertini (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Radhika Gajjala (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Ellen Gorsevski (Committee Member)


Although fan fiction as a literary and cultural phenomenon has a rich and well-studied history – transformative works have been published as far back as the time of Don Quixote – more taboo subcultures of the genre have gone largely unexplored within academia, as has the relationship between fans and authors within such genres. This dissertation examines several unique subgenres of fan participation within the BBC's Sherlock fandom and J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit fandom, including genres that focus on genderbending and genderswapping, nonconsent, and male reproduction. I draw on the work of Gerard Genette and the concept of paratextuality to argue that readers of fan fiction have a far greater impact upon their communities – and even the texts they read – than previous scholars have observed. Furthermore, using both this concept and a literary analysis approach, I examine what narratives about gender roles, sexual orientation, and even reproduction emerge within the text, highlighting both transgressive rhetoric and instances where hegemonic ideologies are upheld, consciously or otherwise, through both authorial and fan-contributed content. Ultimately I suggest that although some fics may end up reinforcing restrictive normative gender models or ideas about reproduction, these genres nonetheless offer both writers and readers a literary framework through which they can push back against rigid gender roles and question the legitimacy of our established understandings of gender, sex, and even reproduction itself.