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Dr. Catherine Tosenberger

Faculty of Arts


Biography

Catherine Tosenberger is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Winnipeg, a position she has held since 2008, and is attached to the Centre for Research in Young People’s Texts and Cultures (CRYTC). She received her M.A. in folklore from Ohio State University, and her Ph.D. in children’s literature from the University of Florida. She is the author of multiple articles on the topics of fandom studies, children’s literature, and fairy tales. Her research interests also include folk narratives, adolescent texts and cultures, erotic literature, and Neopagan religions. In addition, she is an associate editor of Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures, and serves on the board for the fandom studies journal Transformative Works and Cultures.

For more information on CRYTC, see: http://crytc.uwinnipeg.ca/


Research

Dr. Catherine Tosenberger is currently adapting her dissertation on Harry Potter fanfiction into a book.  “Fanfiction” is fiction that uses pre-existing characters and settings from literary and media texts; it differs from other recursive texts (such as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, or March) in that it circulates unofficially within a community context (the fandom). While fans are not able to capitalize on their writing in terms of money or official recognition, fan writers are compensated by not being restricted to institutionalized discourses. Fanfiction in general is often articulated as a refusal to simply be a passive consumer of media, but to actively engage with texts; fandom as a space of engagement is especially valuable for young fans, who comprise a significant portion of Potter fandom.  In our era of what Henry Jenkins calls “convergence culture,” fan-produced writing provides a means for studying the impact of the Potter books on creative, motivated readers. This has major implications for the study of children’s and young adult literature, which is, after all, a genre defined by its audience.  For this work, Dr. Tosenberger has drawn upon her own experiences as a reader and writer in the Harry Potter, Supernatural, and Glee fandoms.

Related to this project, Dr. Tosenberger is also working on a study of erotic boarding school narratives – the Potter books take place at a boarding school, and many fanfictional stories are romantic or sexual in nature.  While the boarding school as a locus for homosexual activity is a running joke in British culture, there has yet to be a full-length survey of the portrayal of boarding schools as erotic space, and the implications for historical and contemporary understandings of youth, education, and sexuality.  For this project, Dr. Tosenberger was awarded a Major Research Grant to examine rare 18th- and 19th-century examples of boarding school pornography held by the British Library.

In addition, Dr. Tosenberger, UW colleagues Pauline Greenhill and Steven Kohm, and fellow collaborators Sidney Eve Matrix, Cristina Bacchilega, and Jack Zipes have all been awarded a SSHRC Standard Research Grant for a three-year project on fairy tale films and media.  Dr. Tosenberger’s work will concentrate on the use of fairy tale plots and motifs in fanfiction.  Fan writers often borrow fairy tale elements for their stories, most obviously when writing fanfiction for fantasy texts such as Harry Potter or the television series Supernatural, but also for non-magical texts, such as the television series Glee.  This project builds upon Dr. Tosenberger’s previous published research on Supernatural fanfiction.