GABBLER RECOMMENDS: On the Cult of Originality: What Byzantine Literary Culture Can Tell Us About Fanfiction by Arkady Martine

“And yet: we are surrounded by literature which is not original and which is successful, enjoyed, and persistent.

This literature is described as flawed, insufficient, not morally improving nor useful to the scholar; self-indulgent, archaizing, written by un-scholarly or un-imaginative persons, or worse yet, by members of marginalized groups; literature which is full of tropes, of expected emotional beats, of Happy-For-Ever endings; literature written using someone else’s characters, for no monetary gain, merely social pleasure and social currency. Literature which insists on being unavoidably present: produced by both the most-educated and the least-privileged—and unequivocally enjoyed (and reproduced, traded, invoked) by both these groups?

You think I’m talking about transformative fanwork here. And I am. But I’m also talking about Byzantine literature from the 9th-12th centuries. What’s interesting is how similar the problems are in evaluating whether some piece of writing is good if we use the criteria of originality to make that determination … both for Byzantine literature and for modern transformative works.”


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