Date Awarded


Document Type

Dissertation -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Charles McGovern


Jane Austen's American fans have a vibrant history. This dissertation traces how fans have sustained devotion to Austen, her works, and her world since the early nineteenth century through a set of practices still current among fans today: collecting objects and knowledge; writing imitative works; and carrying out literary pilgrimage.;I argue that these three modes of engagement are performative. Through practices such as creating and collecting material objects, and writing and reading fan fiction, fans engage in acts of what Joseph Roach has called surrogation. This is a performative means through which fans seek a substitute for a past affective experience that can never be repeated in the same way, such as reading a beloved novel for the first time. These acts take place within the everyday lives of fans who seek pleasure from Austen's world. Through pilgrimage fans enter into a liminal space, apart from the quotidian, where they may perform subjectivity as fans. These performances are enacted during pilgrimage to Austen-related sites, as well as to special events like those sponsored by the Jane Austen Society of North America.;Throughout this dissertation I offer evidence of fan practices overlooked or underrepresented by past studies. This evidence reveals nearly two hundred years of continuity within the American Austen fandom. These fans enjoy a nostalgic, personal connection to Austen, her characters, and her era. their practices offer means of entering Austen's world, seeking pleasure, fulfillment, and community; they also offer means of re-engaging with the original texts, always in search of something new within the familiar.;This case study of Jane Austen fandom contributes to the larger understanding of fans and fan practices. The Austen fandom boasts unique qualities and has a history predating the term "fan," yet it resembles recent popular culture media fandoms. Through a history of three modes of fan practices, I describe and theorize how performativity and surrogation work within fandom, proposing new, more specific ways of understanding the subjectivity, history, and practices of fans---representing prevalent and creative ways American culture consumes literature and narrative media.



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