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Name: Julia Knaus

PhD: Critical Theory and Cultural Studies

Thesis Title: "The Distinction is Clear": Self-Other Dynamics as Lines of Distinction within the Sherlock Holmes Fandom


Thesis Description:

My thesis examines relationships and relationships management within groups, on the case study of the Sherlock Holmes fandom. I am specifically engaging with ‘self’-‘other’ dynamics through the framework of lines of distinction between fandom factions. Lines of distinction are defined as differences associated with value judgements, along the lines of ‘self’ = ‘good’ and ‘other’ = ‘bad’. The thesis will examine the lines of distinction as reported by the fans themselves, and analyse how the lines of distinction are expressed (or not) in a selection of fandom activities and the discourses surrounding them. In the Holmes fandom, prominent lines of distinction include, for example, the fandom-specific entry point (that is, which of the multiple Holmes texts the fan first and/or primarily engages with), a fan’s depth/time of engagement with the fandom (for instance, a weekly time commitment), and a fan’s thematic knowledge (how much does the fan know about their object of fandom and fandom traditions), but also encompass demographics such as age and gender.

Engaging with these concepts will allow me to show not only the applicability of discourses around ‘self’-‘other’ power dynamics as per Foucault and Bourdieu within groups such as single fandoms, but also broaden the understanding of fandoms, which have so far been primarily conceptualised as cohesive single bodies opposing an outside Other (e.g. the mainstream, academia). Channelling this discussion through fan activities allows me to triangulate evidence of fans’ activities (whether tangible in the form of writing or more ephemeral in the form of social gatherings) with fans’ own views and reports (in interviews and questionnaire) and data gathered as participant observer.


Research Questions:

The thesis aims to establish a framework for investigating the interior structure of fandoms by looking at differences associated with value judgements - "lines of distinction" - as reported by the members of these groups. The case study is the Sherlock Holmes fandom.

How do factions of the fandom distinguish themselves from others? Which aspects are imbued with value judgements and form the basis of self-other distinctions?

How do these lines of distinction play out in selected fandom activities? How do they influence these activities and the discourse surrounding them?


Chapter Structure:

  1. Introduction
  2. Literature Review & Theoretical Framework
  3. Lines of Distinction: Voices within the Fandom
  4. Activity Case Studies Section
    1. Archontic Texts: Creative Writing between “Fanfiction” and “Pastiche”
    2. Meeting Up: Fan Gatherings
    3. Critical Writing: Queer Readings in "The Great Game" and "Meta"
  5. Conclusion

Supervisors and Institution(s): 

  • Professor Roberta Pearson, University of Nottingham
  • Dr Elizabeth Evans, University of Nottingham


  • Knaus, Julia. 2017. The Great Detective, by Zach Dundas; Gender and the Modern Sherlock Holmes, edited by Nadine Farghaly; and Sherlock Holmes, edited by Alex Werner [book review]. In "Sherlock Holmes Fandom, Sherlockiana, and the Great Game," edited by Betsy Rosenblatt and Roberta Pearson, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 23.

Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:


  • Upcoming: May M3C Festival | Poster: "Self-Other Dynamics within Fandoms: Meetings in the Sherlock Holmes Fandom"
  • Spring Term: Teaching Assistant for module "Consuming Film and Television" at UoN
  • Spring Term: Teaching Workshop "Designing and Analysing Questionnaires"
  • M3C Student Advisory Forum (SAF) representative for the University of Nottingham (until April 2018)


  • June "Evolving Stories" Conference, De Montfort University, Leicester | Paper: "Fanfiction Tropes: Approaching Types of Adaptation in Fandom"
  • June Fan Studies Network Conference, University of Huddersfield | Paper: "Inclusion and Exclusion within Fandoms: The Baker Street Irregulars Annual Meeting"
  • from May 1st: M3C Student Advisory Forum (SAF) representative for the University of Nottingham
  • Autumn Term: Teaching Assistant for module "Cultural Politics" at UoN


  • June 28th-29th "Theorising the Popular" Conference, Liverpool Hope University | Paper: "Fanfiction and Pastiche"
  • May 12th M3C Showcase: Poster


  • organisation and co-chairing of postgraduate conference Writing Revolutions & Revolutionary Writing at the University of Birmingham (23 June 2015)


Other Research Interests:

  • Detective Fiction
  • Victorian Literature (especially the Gothic and Doppelgängers)
  • Screenwriting
  • Adaptation and Transformative Works




University email address:

Additional email address: phd[AT]shstudies[DOT]eu

Twitter: @HolmesPhD

Tumblr: HolmesPhD


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