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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Macbeth as Avatar : fandom in British Romantic theatre audiences Soulstein, Seth Koozel


This study aims to place two previously disconnected areas of academic inquiry, Romantic theatre studies and fandom studies, in dialogue with one another, to the mutual benefit of both fields. Towards this end, I focus on a particular manifestation of fan behavior, the deployment of popular iconography and mythology as a protest strategy – a mode of fandom recently codified as “Avatar activism” by Henry Jenkins, a leading fan scholar – and look for its existence in a specific moment in time in Romantic London: the 1809 Old Price Riots. Fandom studies, as a discipline, looks at active media audiences, and the ways in which they build upon source media texts. In the first chapter, I give an overview as to the history of this relatively young branch of scholarship, which brings us to the current moment, in which Avatar activism can be considered a mode of fan behavior. Following that, I focus on the Romantic period for the remainder of the thesis. In the second chapter, I choose three various case studies of engaged audiences – Sarah Siddons as celebrity icon; hippodrama and genre fandom; and intertextuality, transmedia, and what David A. Brewer has called “imaginative expansion” - which set the stage for the idea that fan behavior was alive and well in the early nineteenth century. In the final chapter, I focus on the Old Price Riots, and the rioters’ use of Shakespeare-as-icon and Shakespearean mythology as a Romantic manifestation of Avatar activism. With this study, I aim to provide a larger historical context for modern conceptions of fandom, as well as to offer greater insight into audience/text dynamics that existed in Romantic London.

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