Comments on the Pages
Love the intro, though I’m somewhat uncertain about the “alongside other fictions.”
My one issue (that I’ll expand below) is the steampunk reference. I don’t think it needs to be as prevalent throughout the essay, and it comes out of nowhere with no clear reference in this first paragraph.
Cut the phrase “For polemical…”
It might be useful to justify why using decades’ old texts are the best theoretical lend through which to read this. (In fact, maybe also address why the terms modern/postmodern are even necessary/useful here, given that we’re dealing with pre-modernist and postpostmodern texts so to speak)
But these are current buildings, right? Maybe the program isn’t so much a failure as pointing out something about the post postmodern aesthetic?
OK, I’m not fully following here, which simply means, you may have to articulate it more clearly: how is Sherlock’s world not an overflow of doisconnected signifiers out of which Sherlock searches and filters what he requires in terms of information? Or is that filtering itself the control that Jameson would disallow for a postmodern representation? And could one not argue that this is indeed the very post postmodern, namely rather than limited info or excess info that overwhelmes, we now have the web…nothing but data, but with a need for search engines, for Sherlocks that can search and filter the excess into meaning.
This paragraph (and indeed the section) needs to be introduced more clearly. Topic sentence and maybe even an overview of what you’ll argue in this section?
Is this quote necessary? I’d say readers would believe that fact. It doesn’t further your argument in any way. (Though it is a cool quote 🙂
Your point here is important, but I feel the tone is a bit too accusatory and not merely descriptive. I think you could actually use this to argue that they have protested too much, that indeed the text itself (clothes and corpse beating and all) yearns for this imaginary past. In fact, I wonder how much of that decision was merely a slightly kinky aesthetic one: Holmes with a whip! 🙂
I wonder if there isn’t a more positive reading to be done merging awareness of old and new. Again, it’s Sherlock’s ability to know where to look that’s important, not necessarily whether it’s an old or a new code (at least that’s how I was reading it)
Yes, I’m glad you can bring in the racism and actually make it party of your argument. I’m not so sure about the sword, though. After all, this is a classic trope throughout all action film, isn’t it? We have lasers and guns and ships that can blow up planets and yet the finale is a sword fight or a fist fight or a light saber battle 🙂
Here seem to be some transitional issues. Clearer topic sentences, and please connect your discussion of Holmes with your overall argument, so that we know why we’re suddenly back in the 1880s.
It may be just me because I live and breathe McHale epistemology/ontology distinction, but I don’t think we need the quote here. I do think that Holmes as modernist avant la lettre is fascinating and I’d like to see some more contemporary support if possible (maybe an Eliot quote?).
And I’m back to whether Sherlock indeed tries to be postmodern. SF and ontology and postmodernism/ity may be connected intricately, but is the 21st century still postmodern? Are we still asking these ontological questions? I think we’ve seen a few turns and returns (history/ethics/affect/…) that might reject the freeplay of signifiers and their ontological uncertainty with which postmodernism seemed to be preoccupied. I think your argument is on the ball in its retro fantasy that merges the idealized past with a similarly imagined present, but I’m not sure the rfact that Sherlock isn’t postmodern or that the postmodern is characterized by ontological concerns fully gets you there.
I think this entire section could profit from becoming somewhat denser and using steampunk as an aside rather than as its raison d’etre. At the very least, I’d like to see a clearer connection between your overall argument and your use of steampunk.
See all of this works without ever even naming steampunk. I’d suggest revising this section and focusing on what it tells us about Sherlock and our times that such a retrofuturistic text captures our imaginary rather than to try to do genre labeling that doesn’t really go anywhere. A footnote or aside might be sufficient to reference the term and how it functions in quite the same way, but in the end, Sherlock isn’t steampunk in its more narrow definition and the question is rather why both of them are popular and what that tells us about our contemporary craving for nostalgic imaginary wholeness and certainty, right?
Is this quote necessary? I know i’m asking you to cut all your blockquotes, but what you have to say is so much more interesting!
Yes, great point on the necessity of Sherlock being right only because he lives in a normative world! I feel like this connects yet again with the way the modern myth of clarity comes up against the contemporary reality of multiplicity.
This is the section I’d like to see more on. It’s a marvelous argument, but it seems to end before its time and I think needs to be a bit more nuanced. Also, it doesn’t fully tie in with the earlier two sections. I’d say that the emphasis on authorial intent and reading Sherlock the way the showrunners want by minimizing alternative readings and outlets, the show takes on a modern rather than a postmodern authorial model, in which the intent matters. Rather like The Great Game that Sherlockians have played for ages (see Polanski and possibly reference)
I don’t think they’re expressedly closing the door, but they are extratextually showing queer hostility and also fan hostility (the last one in reference to DW, but it was still Moffat, right?)
This is the part I’d like to see more differentiated. I agree with your argument and, in fact, the transmedia Sherlock fan tie ins are pitiful for a program with such a huge pre-given fanbase and a creator who knows his way around big fandoms. I wonder if there’s a way to bring that all together better…not to make Moriarty THE FAN but to look at the way fans have been given fewer openings, perhaps not in the text but certainly in paratexts. Also, look at Harrington maybe in reference to Moriarty.
Overall, your language in this paper is overwhelmingly negative, to the point where it sounds like you hate absolutely everything about this show. If you do in fact hate Sherlock, that is your prerogative. However, using such negatively charged language will make it very hard for readers who DO love Sherlock (which is probably pretty much anyone reading this collection) unwilling to hear you out, as your brutal attack on their beloved show from the very abstract will put them on the offensive. I would suggest going through very carefully and toning it down where possible. Not only will this make your argument sound more scholarly and less embittered, but also it will help your readers feel less like something they hold quite dear is being brutally attacked.
Also, you use a lot of block quotes. Just speaking from personal experience as a student, I always find what the author has to SAY about the block quote much more interesting than the block quote itself, and will in fact often just skip over them when I am strapped for time when reading an article, since the author often summarizes their content anyway through their analysis of them. I think you can probably condense many of your block quotes to just a few key phrases which you can embed in your text and then discuss.
I agree – see my own comments below re: your use of “steampunk” to classify Sherlock. Perhaps use the phrase “pre-modern alternate universe fiction world” or some variation that isn’t such a mouthful.
While it makes for good reading, I’m not sure your use of the word “sexy” here is the best. Yes, a lot of Sherlock is visually appealing (and myriad Tumblrs will attest to the attractiveness of the main characters) but it’s a word that tends to hold negative charge when it comes to modern adaptations of the old. In short, it makes you sound as if you are dismissing the validity of the new adaptation on the sole basis that it is visually appealing to a modern audience, which I’m sure is not the case. So, perhaps another word – one less reminiscent of stodgy intellectuals immediately dismissing anything which tampers with the integrity of their favorite works.
Also, it’s a small point, but your clarification of Harry as a lesbian here seems unnecessary. (Since you don’t discuss it until much later and you can wait to bring it up until then.)
This is probably just personal preference, but I find outlines of a whole paper during the introduction section to be counterproductive, as they often give you the conclusion before taking you there step-by-step, causing the reader to be doubtful of your argument before you’ve even gotten going (since they have yet to see the evidence on which you base your claim). I would probably edit it down to the following:
“Sherlock is not the ‘modern’ adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes stories that it repeatedly claims to be, with its postmodern visual aesthetic disguising its essentially conservative, pre-modern message. I find this troubling not because I have anything against fantasy or the fantastic, or even retrofuturism per se, but because the program does not seem to comment on or even really acknowledge its own perspective, ideology, or genre and therefore lacks the self-reflective awareness that I feel should characterize a postmodernism that would be relevant to a progressive cultural discourse. Sherlock chooses to eschew the real issues of contemporary society and, in doing so, it produces a reification of the retrograde and the nostalgic, which suggests that the past is actually the present.”
That gives a general overview without making too detailed of a claim that your reader would find troubling at this point in your paper. I do have one more question about the last phrase, however, as a suggestion that the past IS the present doesn’t seem inherently invalid, and thus this phrase is rather out of sync with the rest of your critique of Sherlock.
I’m a little confused about what you’re arguing here. Are you saying that you believe the show’s creators intentionally tried to mimic 19th century visions of utopias and failed in that goal? Because you don’t provide enough evidence for that claim. Also, I’m somewhat doubtful of your claim that the only visual landscapes presented by the show are either steel & glass or Victorian. Unfortunately, I have limited internet access at the moment, or I would provide screencap evidence of what I mean. (Sorry!) But what makes up Sherlock’s visual landscape is not only the cut scenes of London’s skyline, but also every locale where the camera goes – which includes small restaurants or back alleys. (Such as the one featured on one of the four original promo pics.)
I question your use of “flawlessly” as a descriptor, as it is a positive phrase, which leaves the reader confused as to what you’re arguing. I’m left wondering if you see this scrupulous costume design as something to be admired or critiqued (given your paper’s generally negative tone).
Also, you don’t explain what you mean in the last sentence. How, exactly?
I don’t think you need the “presumably unlike in the nineteenth century” – it makes you sound sarcastic and it’s pretty true that today’s world DOES run on ciphers and codes, considering that today’s world runs on computers and the digital transfer of information.
While it’s true that, yes, Sherlock will be solving old-school mysteries, I would argue that there’s something rather unsatisfying about watching Sherlock Holmes plug a code into a computer and wait for it to spit back the answer. Crimes that can be solved with computers alone are rarely interesting for a reader or viewer to follow as it becomes unraveled. Basically, I think you’re being a little hard on the show for simply trying to keep their viewers’ interest.
As for the racist elements, I agree – but would point out that part of that problem comes from some, frankly, terrible acting on the part of the Asian actors. Yes, they had a script, but they had a hand in a rather poor portrayal, falling into a stereotype rather than bringing any real life to the character they were playing.
I’m not at all familiar with McHale, so I do think a quote is necessary – but a much shorter one, or perhaps just a summary in your own words.
I agree. I feel throughout your paper as if you are try to put Sherlock into a definitively labeled box in which it does not necessarily belong or even claim to belong to. You make a lot of great points and arguments, but I feel as if your claim that Sherlock is a failure due to its lack of self-reflection, all because this makes it not fit within the postmodern definition, is rather constricting. (Also, while I certainly believe in categories of literature, I don’t really believe every text within a certain period of literature has to fit the definitions of that period in order to still succeed and be worth reading (or, in this case, viewing). I don’t think the artists in any period intentionally sat down and went, “Okay, guys, it’s time to be Romantics,” or whatever. So that’s why I find it odd to assume that Sherlock’s creators would sit down and intentionally try to design a postmodern show, rather than just trying to design a show they thought was good and that people would enjoy.)
I’m not sure I see why this is so surprising. To me, Sherlock is clearly an AU from the get go, so I don’t really see why you spend so long explaining why this is. I think you can condense paragraphs 23 through 25 into one brief transitional paragraph that gets all your readers on the same page with the fact that Sherlock is an AU but leave it at that.
Re: the comic book characters – But Sherlock himself sees London as if he is living in a storybook, populating it with archenemies and such. The fact that the writers deliver this as a joke at their own expense suggests this is rather intentional on their part or at least done with self-awareness.
Also, I admit it’s been a while since the last time I saw The Blind Banker (The Great Game being much more important for my own paper), but I did watch it three times in total and I’m pretty sure the wall was just painted over in black. Or at least, that was my impression.
I overwhelmingly agree, namely because I would never classify Sherlock as steampunk. I am a bit of a steampunk enthusiast and the lack of electricity (past its earliest stages, anyway) and synthetic materials is absolutely key to the steampunk aesthetic. (And steampunk is all about aesthetics.) It is interesting that steampunk is becoming increasingly popular and that Sherlock uses similar retrofuturistic design, but naming Sherlock as steampunk just doesn’t work. I very much support the idea of referencing steampunk as an aside, however.
I actually somewhat disagree with this, especially your use of the phrase “a homosexual panic.” To me, it just seems like a quite fun running joke (especially given its lengthy history). Yes, John heartily denies that he and Sherlock have anything going on, but then again, the original Watson was married. It still allows for speculation on the part of fans as to whether John doth protest too much, perhaps. Having John and Sherlock not romantically involved does not mean that the creators are anti-gay, just as an author having straight characters in their story doesn’t make them anti-gay either.
Speaking as someone thoroughly involved in a variety of fandoms (all with primarily slash fiction), I have never felt particularly threatened by the creators’ direct statement that John and Sherlock are not gay. If anything, this tends to be a moment of self-reflective humor for slash writers and readers. (A type of humor taken to its most extreme in Supernatural, which actually had two whole episodes self-parodying both themselves and their own fandom. These two episodes are two of the best Supernatural has ever made and are extremely loved by every fan I have ever talked to.) So anyway, with your phrase “fan writing is not so easily silenced,” you make it sound like slash writers are fighting a war of some sort, when really they’re just having a lot of fun, by and large.
I very much agree with your comparison here, since ACD tried to keep Holmes cutting edge, but I like Kristina’s take here. Perhaps a nostalgia for the pleasurable immediacy of such experimentation (the nineteenth-century man of science), as well as a chance for Holmes to pleasure himself at the tractable Molly’s expense and enjoy her reaction. (His comment about the alibi is so absurd and self-important.) You might also read this as a wink to the fans, since it follows the original scene from the ACD story and it also echoes Doyle’s tacit acknowledgement of the pleasures of a fictional world–we don’t watch Sherlock to find out about scientific advances or the state of the world but rather to escape these.
Just a note that the racism in the aforementioned scene is completely consistent with the stories and Doyle’s New Imperialist position, since you are characterizing the stories’ ideology here.
It seems to me that you should start to think through genre a bit more here, as you make this point, since you are working through formulaic fiction’s connection to modernism.
This analysis cuts to the point of your critique nicely. You might underline, as that Sherlock replays the bias from ACD’s stories, it fails to interrogate genre–not just Doyle but detective fiction itself. Also, not to throw you off track, but I keep wanting you to develop this nostalgic Orientalizing/disconnect from the post-colonial world just a bit more as you situate the series. As a side note, I really like the work you are doing in this paragraph, but I find some of the phrasing a bit distracting or imprecise (e.g., “without blinking,” “to have its cake,” “with a foot in both camps”).
Yes, yes, to both your analysis and Kristina’s comment on it!
I like your consideration of the unvoiced possibilities of the Victorian text in relation to Sherlock (of course, Wilde’s trials resound in the 1890s). Do you need to address Jim Moriarty’s deliberate queerness and flirtation with Sherlock at least a bit here?
Never mind–very happy to see Moriarty section coming!
Nice reading. Yes, this needs development, particularly since Moffat and Gatiss align themselves with fans (and Moriarty) in a lots of ways. (And yes, very poor tie-ins–thin and obvious.)
I really enjoyed your perspective and analysis here–rich and interesting article. Like Kristina, I think that you might need to complicate your situation of the show in relation to the modern/postmodern, thinking through genre and nostalgia a little more. This will also help you develop the fan analysis. The steampunk treatment is helpful but not central.
I love your point that Sherlock reproduces rather than critiques the bias of the original. The genre with its fixing of identity and guilt, elevation of order, clear resolutions, etc., tends toward the conservative naturally, and Sherlock does not problematize this viewpoint (making it, if anything, more palatable).
Nice final wrapping up, but I’d love to see more developed conclusions here connecting this last section more to the prior project and pulling the whole argument together more.
You’re right. I think it’ll help if I just talk about ‘retrofuturism’ and maybe leave the steampunk as a footnote.
Well, I’m using the term post-modern because that’s the way people tend to talk about the show? So it’s meant to be kind of ironic. Do you think I need to make that more clear?
I think what I meant is that the selection of buildings, i.e. it’s not what’s included so much as what seems to be carefully left out. Which leaves a certain impression. Maybe I should say just that.
Yes, I will make this more clear. I think maybe, if it’s okay, I could refer to Matt’s essay? His conversation about the ordered hierarchy of knowledge being dismantled is really interesting, but I want to argue it only pretends to be unordered because Sherlock’s information search purports to search everything, but is still subject to this ONLY ONE INTERPRETATION FITS THE FACTS thing which is super age of enlightenment.
It’s so cool though! (point taken, however.)
Oh, I think that’s great, thank you! There is a sort of masturbatory thing going on there, which I think I should discuss. Fantastic!
Sure, but that happens in explicit science fiction….? This is meant to be realistic, and an ‘update’. If you’re gonna talk about the war in Afghanistan, this seems a little weird. Why not have him fencing with a musketeer or a pirate or something if that’s what they were going for?
Absolutely. I completely agree. Although what do you think about the problematizing gestures towards a more progressive outlook in ACD, I think? I mean, like Five Orange Pips, or Adventure of the Yellow Face, or even the Noble Bachelor (which talks about Holmes’s vision of the world flag as the union jack quartered with the stars & stripes…?) I mean, not that these AREN’T New Imperialist, but there’s some weird stuff going on there.
But don’t you think everyone talks about it as if it IS postmodern? Which is part of what I’m talking about. Maybe it would be better to simply talk about the marketing of the phrase postmodern, and what that means here…?
Matt talks about this a little bit in his chapter too, actually — the way Moffat and Gatiss want to rely on the myth of Holmes, (in a fannish way) but simultaneously assert their professional non-fannish authorship, as well as their relationship to Conan Doyle text. I’ll try to state that a little more clearly.
I think I can make it work with just the retrofuturism, so I’ll try to do that.
You’re right; will try to do it without racking up miles on the cliche-ometer.
I think that’s a really succinct way of putting it! Maybe I can find a way to stick this up in the beginning section about postmodernism.
Absolutely. And maybe I can refer to Ellen’s essay in this section?
I agree, it definitely needs to be more subtle and nuanced. I think reading your and Matt’s essays will be really helpful with that. Thank you!
I think that progressiveness might be wrapped up in ACD’s conception of New Imperialism–more a slight superiority than a raging demonization, sometimes trying to be generous, though I agree his depictions are contradictory. (And replacing Poe’s primate from “Murders” with Tonga in “Sign of 4” is so hideously clear.) Yes, fascinating.
Really enjoy the intro, and agree about using “retrofuturism” and footnoting steampunk as a notable/visible example of this trend. I had a note on your steampunk section late in the paper that it seemed tangential. My only other note here, and its an admittedly nitpicky style comment, is that the tone of the asides (e.g. where else but…) doesn’t appeal to me, and may be contributing to some of the above comments re: the negative tone they’re observing. It may be overly snarky, but again this is a matter of personal preference!
I had the same note re: cutting the first sentence, you don’t need it. I personally liked the way you outline your argument here, and stake your position on Sherlock’s brand of retrofuturism.
I think you need to work through these ideas, especially because (given your intro) I assumed you’d be dealing with Benjamin and the arcade in much more detail. If you’re going to bring out the “r” word (regressive), you need to back it up. Is this just about reflecting the trappings of futurism, then?
I think this analysis of the costumes really works well to articulate your argument, maybe build a bit more on the mirrors in the prior paragraph before delving into Holmes’ reflection (and how that, in turn, reflects nostalgically on the past).
Again, the rhetorical question stylistic tic isn’t working for me, tonally.
There’s a lot packed into this first sentence, breaking it down into two might help clarify your point. I’d also be interested to see how you’d apply these concepts to how Sherlock’s thought process is visualized on the show.
Agreed, cool quote but cut it and just cite the study. Sorry. 🙂
Re: this merging of old and new, I’m actually fine with the critical tone of the piece as a whole (moreso than some other commenters), but I do think there needs to be some acknowledgement here and in prior paragraphs that much of this boils down to wink-wink postmodern pastiche and/or intertextuality. Notably, this can work with your argument, as these postmodern tropes can be read positively or negatively.
As you note, you could creative a constructive dialogue with Matt’s article here.
replicating rpearson’s comment: 56 short stories and four novels
The question though remains whether the new Sherlock is just as British as the old, right? (Also, British or English?)
It’d be interesting to see specific Dutch adaptations or intertexts. How is what you’re describing in this paragraph inflected by your specific national reception?
[Also: what do you mean by Holmes being “highly typical”? Rephrase?]
Can you unpack this a bit more? I think there’s a lot going on here in this paragraph, and i’m not sure that interpretive communities are as monolithic as you seem to make them out here not that transmediality has singular effects.
I think part of my problem may simply be that I’m not sure when you say fans whether you’re talking in general or in the specific case of dutch fans.
I’ve argued before that every reader is member of various overlapping and often contradictory interpretive communities. I mean, even when we talk about literal communities as we often do with fans–I can be a member of britpicking and asexual!holmes and johnsherlockslash, and my readings will coincide with members of these groups on certain issues but not on others. I think throughout the essay as you’re going back and forth between fanon and mynon, so to speak (not used in a derogatory sense here!), it might be useful to clearly allow for these varied communities and multiple and overlapping memberships.
Just a random question from a native German: We’d more than likely get the program dubbed. Was Sherlock dubbed or subtitled? How long after the original airing did it show? Did your interviewees watch it on Dutch media or bootlegged after initial airing?
Linguistically, why Moreover? Wouldn’t a separate linguistic Dutch community make it easier to research in isolation? what are the advantages and drawbacks in having the community share English-language fannish spaces?
At this point, I’d really like to see your findings rather than just a description of what you’re planning to do. Thesis, please? [And yes, that’s a very American thing to ask. The US academic system is obsessed with thesis fronted writing, but alas, this is a US publication in the end :)]
This paragraph and the last. You can probably condense your discussion of transmedia storytelling, both given the intended audience of the book and our introduction. Make it relevant within your argument, i.e., how is the concept relevant for Sherlock (which you beautifully do in the next paragraph).
Jauss is actually usually described as subscribing to reception aesthetics just like his teacher Wolfgang Iser, who might make a better candidate as “founder” (unless you go all the way back to Bahktin). Usually Stanley Fish gets affiliated most closely with early reader response theory along with Culler and Norman Holland.
I guess the larger question here is why you’ve chosen Culler and Fludernik as your primary theoretical framework when there’s a large field of audience studies to draw from within and outside of fan studies. [My guess is that you really want the idea of literary competence, which seems to connect to implied and intended and ideal readers and ultimately to me always seems to be as much about the text as it is about the actual readers…]
So I wonder whether you’re actually moving beyond Culler (or maybe Fludernik is?) in that you all but literalize him–where he creates an ideal narratively competent reader, you are interested in how much intertextual background is needed and how different contexts affect reading, esp in terms of cultural and national contexts, right? Maybe Holland might not be that far off for you, though in general, the media scholars like Morley and Ang have done better theorization of one on one studies it seems to me.
This is very helpful and useful! I do wonder (though that might go too far afield), whether IC and OOC ultimately aren’t a function of fan readings as much as they are of actual character continuities. And don’t transmedial elements also solidify characterization and establish continuities?
Love this comparison and the entire section on the Britishness that pervades international readings and how BBC exports its Britishness… (in the US it’s Masterpiece Theatre which has an odd cultural value of quality TV and plays on PBS and has been exporting Britishness for decades).
You seem to move here from fans to viewers and back. Is it the fans you are particularly interested in, or the general viewers as well?
Or watching the series off air, satellite or cable.
Perhaps, also, viewers expectations are also partly shaped by the marketing of the series by the broadcasters and secondary texts, such as newspapers that have previews and the like.
reference to series basing this on Heavy Rain.
Out of interest, do the interviewees talk about where they get these views from. Have they seen Dr Who, is there much written in the Dutch media about Moffat?
But also includes the victorian parts of London swimming bath at Acton and the under grounds tunnels. It is a mish mash of old and new, as London is.
Yes, I agree that the transmedia storytelling argument can be condensed here a bit–and I’d add that at this point conversations of transmedia storytelling have moved beyond only Henry Jenkins. It would make sense to shorthand the larger discussions at play in the scholarship surrounding, say, the Transmedia Hollywood conference. (And yes, Henry is at the center of that, but it is an industrial and scholarly conversation that’s moved beyond a single scholar.)
This relationship between transmedia and adaptation is quite an interesting one. I think it could be fruitful to pose this as an exploration of the relationship between the two, rather than as predominantly point of difference with Jenkins. That is–can you highlight this aspect of your argument in terms of concept, with the conversation with Jenkins secondary?
Again chiming in to echo Kristina; the largest issue here is that you need to shorthand a larger history and context for reader response theory, and then highlight the concepts/scholars that you want to draw on as offering especially useful tools for your study, not as totalizing the approach. Again, put the ideas rather than the scholars first.
There’s so much going on in this sentence:
“Transmedial elements in a text make characterization more problematic because characters are understood in the light of previous texts”
It’s a fascinating question and absolutely begs unpacking. How does transmedia potentially impact naturalization? I think an additional sentence or even two here considering this question and its implications in full would be very useful here.
Given the centrality of these select personal interviews that you gained access to, I wonder whether you’d considered also discussing your relationship to these informants/the Sherlock series? You absolutely don’t have to, but this amount of first person seems to want just a little more of locating of how you fit in to the study. (Alternately, you could reduce the first person narrative sound of the set up here…)
Also, I find myself asking throughout what types of questions you asked to lead to the particular answers? Again, though (or because) you use first person, it feels that you’ve erased your role in the conversation in a way that makes me feel like part of the picture is missing.
Could you talk briefly about the strength and potentially (perceived or real) weaknesses of this approach, the limitations and value of the insights that such a close study of a small number of fans can offer?
What is the logic behind the flow of your analysis here? Was this modernity a/the theme that viewers talked about first/most/most positively? Or did you ask them about the modern spin directly?
I’d like to see you unpack these quotes (or paraphrasing) more fully. You move from one (Iris) to the next (Margriet) without discussing them in full. Don’t let them speak for themselves; unpack what you see in these quotes, because it won’t be fully clear to your reader without you spelling it out.
Also, what is your logic behind using their first names? Are these their real names? Have they all agreed to have their first names used in this context? Might you want to protect individual fan identity further by using pseudonyms or some other option?
Definitely fans, you are right, I should be consistent in this, but at points, when I discuss more general theories on reception by viewers or readers, these terms should be used.
Very true, Kristina, and that’s resolved in the later sections. Hm, your other point I never even thought about but deem very relevant now: Dutch people tend to say British to English things rather than English, hence the confusion, but English would be better for the nuance I think. What would you say is the most logical from your American point of view?
You are right that this is not on a national level yet but more in lines of what general viewers will know. I should make it very clear here perhaps that the Dutch mediascape is very Anglo-American alrady and then, add some lines about national productions yes. We have had some Dutch adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, notably a play with a few famous Dutch actors earlier this year based on Hound of the Baskervilles that I can refer to (I’m even wondering why it’s not in here now that I look at the chapter again). Sherlock is not a thing in broadcasting but in Dutch theatres, you often find (local) adaptations of him.
I like your idea a lot, Kristina and really agree with them. When I reread some bits of Stanley Fish’ work recently, I was also rethinking whether I wasn’t being a bit too short in this essay. I’m pretty sure this paragraph will be better when it’s more elaborated or cut in two bits with one of them nuancing interpretive community a bit more. Some aspects will be dealt with in the section below, but I should also make that clear (otherwise you get impatient as a reader).
No, not dubbed. 🙂 Subbed. Dutch dubbing culture is very limited, luckily but that stands in contrast with a lot of other European contast, so I should say that. I can add the dates in between brackets of the airing, that’s important too.
The moreover should not be there, I think. And yes, there are even a lot drawbacks since the community is not an isolated one. It pretty much means you need to meet other Dutch fans on international boards. On the one hand, that says something about the internationality of media audiences today and it can be very good to discuss it on such a level (for your language skills, to get different views, to hear from actually British people, etc), on the other hand, it’s more complicated to research and your own local culture might not be represented on the boards that much. – I should sketch some of these things here.
Just to get it straight: So you mean you don’t want an outline (we always hammer on that here to guide readers through a chapter, article or essay) but an immediate research argument that describes some of the findings and then, go? 😉
It’s so true, isn’t it? Even the way they publish these things gives off an image of Britishness. Btw, with us, Sherlock on DVD was published recently as a KRO detective (that’s the channel that broadcasted it) along with a lot of other British detectives that they’ve broadcasted throughout the years and are slowly putting on DVD (lynley, midsomer murders, touch of frost etc). I should squeeze that in somewhere maybe too. They market them as being the best of detectives. (Because… they are British… XD)
Very true! Earlier I also mention that one of the girls thought the series was very Victorian, meaning that I kind of contradict my own ideas and findings here too, i should change that last sentence.
I thought as much, Kristina and Louisa! I was a bit at a loss what you would explain the introduction and how you would theoretically embed it, so I just put in a paragraph with the idea I could edit it later. – The Transmedia Hollywood Conference (and Future of Entertainment) are great examples of where the term comes up and how much it has advanced and picked up in the industry. I often make use of German theories on intermediality and transmediality as well. Maybe those would’ve added a different flair here, but they would have made the concept a lot broader than Jenkins describes it.
Anyway, I will funnel this and pack these paragraphs together. 🙂
No, it was really the first thing they mentioned when I asked them: ‘what do you like about Sherlock?’ I didn’t direct them in any way and was also often struck by that. You’d think they would mention different things first. Well-acted? Handsome Sherlock? I guess this says a lot about how fans justify their more affective readings. Anyway, this can be clearer. I’m not quite sure how to phrase that though.. maybe something like: ‘when I first asked the interviewees in general about Sherlock, and why they like the series, many of them mentioned its modern aspects as highly entertaining…’
Good point, Louisa, let me explain: I have contacted all of them in a very early stage of the research, all of them have read the draft as well, and I also asked them whether I could use their first names (which was also in a foot note, I think, though I could elaborate there.) I detest these kind of articles that mention interviewees with numbers or fake names when it’s a casual topic they are being interviewed about and that they like to give their opinion about, and even get credit for. (Like in this case where fans were actually very happy to get credited with their own name). Anyway, I have discussed this a lot with other social and literary scholars throughout the years and many people have different stances toward this depending on their background or what methodology they grew up with. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a journalist in that sense as well, someone who wants to give people the opportunity to speak up and get published with what they have to say. Anyway, in this case, fans did not want to be rendered invisible in the article and were also not concerned about being tracked because they gave literary insights they always like giving. I also gave them the option to do it based on their nicknames, which many of them found to be more intimate than their actual names – too intimate, because one said that the nickname told much more than the actual name. We settled for this in the end.
“do away with all of that”–the problem is the that. The paragraph is about British identification, so it’s not “That” that the new series is doing away with: it’s the historical stuff, right? (Or in any case, the “that” needs to be clarified because I can’t figure out what it refers back to of all those things.
I had the same note as KB–what do you mean by typical here? I think there’s maybe a language issue…I can’t imagine in what way Holmes is typical. (He’s so extraordinary!) Do you maybe mean, “recognizable?” “iconic?”
Margreit and Astrid seem similar in profile but are not grouped together?
Registering a half-serious protest against the term “in real life”: fandom is real life! 😀
Seconding wanting a reference to Heavy Rain! Fascinating if true! But also haven’t heard it…
This is a fascinating point! The one respondent finds freelancing economically plausible, the other weighs that against the “professionalism” of the police in the modern age. Says a lot about modern capitalism to me!
“calls people off”–I don’t know this expression?
canalized: odd word choice to me, but if it’s a word that’s used in your field.
This is not my experience, though it may just be a different subset of stories. In what I’ve seen, its JOHN who is not asexual, and who then may follow the slash formula and become some form of asexual for love of Sherlock. But I have seen Sherlock as depicted as asexual because he says so (arguably) in ASIP – particularly in the unbroadcast pilot where he describes his body as being “only for transport” . John is hardly ever depicted as asexual in advance.
“The latter characters are associated with the traditional virtues of Britishness. ” Poirot would be horrified! He would wag his Belgian finger at you! Mon dieu! (Seriously, though–I mean, obviously he’s an English sterotype of a Frenchman, but you can’t actually claim his Britishness without a bit of a gloss. :D)
“However, the ways in which they interpret the texts are not necessarily the active viewing that Jenkins describes in his theory of transmedia storytelling which assumes viewers familiarize themselves with other versions of the text and rely more on fan communities in this process.”
True, but it does sound a lot like the Intertextual stuff Jenkins talks about in Textual Poachers, where he talks about fans moving laterally from similar text to similar text. In fact, one of those was Who–if you liked Who, you’d like Hitchhiker’s, you’d like Red Dwarf, you’d like… (There’s a poster he cites and analyzes that shows this intertextual surfing that fans do…)
Kristina, you are spot-on with the literary competence concept which is why I prefer using Culler here but I will definitely frame it better from the start/flesh it out some more and yes, I am not looking for an especially competent or informed reader as Culler and Fish often do.(Also I think Jauss and Iser were actually colleagues, neither one was actually the teacher of the other; they worked at the same uni and were part of the same literature group. I’ll look into again and if I’m right, I’ll mention both as founders I think, that seems the best.) I think you right that Aang, Morley (and Radway) are very comparable approaches. This has to be unpacked much more.
In both the abstract and the intro, I wonder if you could orient the reader a bit more as to the relationship between Sherlock and Doctor Who. While many readers will have a sense of the interrelationship between the two (or at least the fact that there *is* an interrelationship), since the volume is on Sherlock rather than Doctor Who, a little more initial contextualizing would be helpful, I think.
Why does “the BBC’s status as a public institution” mean it will not comment on what makes up canon? Intriguing!
Why is the notion of personal canon oxymoronic? Love this idea but would like to see you connect it more directly to the notion of memory as subject and collective.
Re: the following line:
“Clearly such memories are little more than traces, but they help contextualise the manner in which the interrelationship between the two shows is viewed.”
I’d like to see you explore this more fully; *how* do these traces help contextualize our view of the interrelationship between the two shows? What overarching insights or new perspectives do these traces offer?
What does this Hitchhiker’s Guide connection add? Is it that this association informs viewer pleasure/recognition, or branding? It seems like a fairly removed association. Why/how is it significant?
I really appreciate this close reading of the transmedia extensions in Sherlock and the look behind the scenes into Lidster’s perspective as author. I think this discussion could be usefully framed within other instances of TV transmedia authorship beyond Doctor Who, since many shows now have similar online diegetic extensions (from the diary-format that Will Brooker talks about in his essay on Dawson’s Creek and overflow, to Lost‘s corporate websites, to Flash Forward‘s communal database, to Kyle XY‘s corporate-based ARG and so on…) A sense of the larger transmedia landscape would help contextualize your analysis of Sherlock’s transmedia extensions.
Love the ideas in the following, but the ideas are rather compressed:
“Again this illustrates the symmetries guiding the transmedial development of Sherlock with the post-2005 Doctor Who, as well as reinforcing Hoskins’ point that collective memory is not just ‘directed and made visible through new media technologies’ but simultaneously formed by media cultures and through the practices of those media professionals constituting those media cultures (Hoskins 2009)”
Perhaps unpack and break into multiple sentences?
The conclusion sounds a bit more focused on Doctor Who than Sherlock. Possible to invert the weight to Sherlock?
Also, it is not clear which is the thesis and subthesis; your argument about memory and forgetting feels like it is warring for top billing with your argument about Doctor Who and Sherlock. I’d like to see this reframed so that the top level argument is clearly about the play of memory and forgetting in television production, with Dr. Who one example of the processes of memory and forgetting at play in Sherlock.
At the end of this paragraph, you speak of fanbase access to the expanded storyworld as conveyed by Lidster’s websites. But what about fan-produced transmedia? What about when viewers create or shape memories, as for example the multiple versions of Sherlock’s sites and John’s blogs that fans have written, either in the form of fan fiction or in the form of role playing games (or simply transmedia extensions hosted on blog interfaces, facebook, twitter, etc.)? How does the existence of these fan-authored transmedia texts, (not as commentary but rather as new story-telling) shift the interplay of memory and forgetting you’ve described?
FYI: If you need further evidence of the interrelations between Sherlock Holmes and The Doctor for here or the intro (not that anything in this essay suggests you do!) I have a feature article from an edition Doctor Who Magazine specifically on the subject of how Doctor Who borrows from the Sherlock Holmes stories, right from its origins. Don’t have the reference to hand and would be difficult to trace online anyway-but can scan and email it to you if you think it would be of help.
The angle you have on ‘transmedia storytelling’ is very different from my interests in comparisons of Doctor Who and Sherlock. I’m almost making the opposite argument, that although Sherlock Holmes adaptations are transmedial he has found a permanent home in television. This is helpful as we are less likely to overlap given our respective positions and it makes for an interesting debate across the essays in the book.
The final point in this paragraph is one that Thomas Leitch also makes in ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’ in Film Adaptation and its Discontents (Baltimore, Maryland: John Hopkins University Press, 2007), pp. 207-235 about adaptations tending to reference the Sherlock Holmes ‘franchise’ rather than individual stories.
Again, my essay makes the contrary point that there is a special place for Holmes in television despite its numerous transmedial contexts, so we have a range of views on the topic rather than overlap again. Good-o!
Further historical overlaps between Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes adaptations are: Peter Cushing playing both The Doctor and Sherlock Holmes on film/TV, production staff doing both Holmes adaptation and Doctor Who (Barry Letts, Donald Tosh), and the dual reinvention of The Doctor and Holmes for US TV in the early 1990s, with the McGann film preceded by the virtually identical Sherlock Holmes Returns (The DWM article I mentioned also talks about how Patrick Troughton’s dialogue was indebted to Conan Doyle’s writing of Holmes).
We do overlap somewhat here on our evidence for the cross-promotion of Moffat’s Doctor Who and Sherlock, although I use publicity photos rather than newspaper articles. We do use them to different ends-I’m talking about marketing to youth TV audiences.
Is it worth mentioning here that Gatiss is a dual on and off-screen presence in Doctor Who as well as The League of Gentlemen?
A very strong point about the advancement of the website in transmedia storytelling but is it necessarily true that the BBC didn’t assert the transmedia potential of Doctor Who prior to 2005? You yourself list the plethora of spin-off media texts the show has accumulated over the years and new research by Jason Jacobs shows that BBC Worldwide were always very good at cross-promotion but just kept it to themselves, so as not to look commercialised but rather a public broadcaster not interested in profits.
Our respective discussions on production contexts manage to avoid overlapping as my emphasis is on autho style and production modes rather than transmedia storytelling. Furthermore, I think my essay helpfully expands on some of your points about production personnel.
Alan McKee’s done some interesting work on canon in Doctor Who, and the complexities of personal canon which might be helpful here – it’s in Jones and Pearson ed Cult Television
There’s an interesting point here, too, about how the programmes are connected in public discourses. You’ve probably seen it, but might be worth bringing in the coverage of this year’s BAFTA’s – especially the Radio TImes covers that had Sherlock/Cumberbatch and the Doctor/Smith as pitched against each other, almost ignoring the other nominees (including, of course, the one that won). This could really help you solidify the connections that have been made around the programme’s
The BBC actually used Spooks as a bit of test bed for the kind of transmedia storytelling seen in new Who in 2003/4 – I feel horrible self-promoting but I’ve written about it elsewhere – in Media, Culture and Society (March 2008) and in my book Transmedia Television (which also covers Doctor Who as transmedia and the difference between Old Who and New Who). Might allow you to shortcut having to go into much detail here
Yeah, I see that. As Kristina and Louisa will testify the piece was originally onsiderably more weighted towards a discussion of the two programmes in equal measure in the preceding draft. This suggests I need to shift it still further.
I think I know the article – I will hunt it out!
Yes, I agree the differences are interesting. I was at the Technologies of Transmediality conference in Bristol back in January and there was a lot of movement in terms of defintions (Elizabeth was there too).
Oh good, thank you – I will incorporate
Maybe we should highlight the difference between our perspectives explicitly?
I think I had the Cushing reference in an early draft but excised because I felt it was steering too much into Doctor Who territory.
I think the argument goes that the BBC doesn’t want to start saying what is and is not canon because of potential problems with licensing. I’ll check McKee’s article.
Because canon suggests agreement? And yes, connecting up to subjective/collective memory would be good.
I can do that – it’s hard to do without talking about the specifics of Doctor Who continuity, though.
I agree – I was searching for more linkage here
I did consider it – there is that whole background connection between The League and attempts to restart Doctor Who during its ‘hiatus’, but again I thought this was veering too far into Who territory
I think the connection can probably be better articulated. The point is that Adams was such a central figure to Doctor Who. Again, these are traces
Thanks for those points. It’s tricky to articulate the difference between a contemporary transmedia product like Nu Who and what came before (and still exists to a substantial extent). Something I’m grappling with in another paper I’m currently writing.
My wife is one of MCS’ editors – shame on her for not pointing out your article! I’ll check it and the book out.
I agree – I’ll think about reframing
Hah! Yes, it does need expanding
Yes, I think this is a legacy from the previous Dr Who-centred iteration of the essay
I deliberately avoided fan-authored transmedia storytelling as it seemed too far off the beaten track and more the purview of other essays – but I’m interested to know what other people think?
Excellent – again, I wonder whether we should make those links explicit?
I know the issue of canon definition was definitely present when I submitted a story for a BBC Big Finish Doctor Who competition…lots of rules and regulations about what could and couldn’t be used, which seemed to be related to licensing.
I’m only really looking at fan authorship from inside the TV industry i.e. fans of Doyle/Who that happen to also be established producers and writers, so you wouldn’t be intruding on my essay.
Don’t know if you’ve seen this but if you were looking at how fan-authored trans-media storytelling merged Doctor Who and Sherlock, it might be a good case study: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0av4se_430
Yes, I think that’s a good idea. I was going to make that argument more forcefully in the re-draft anyway. It might also be something that Kristina and Louisa could refer to in the introduction, if they are linking our essays in the same section/themes etc.
You could put some additional context in an endnote perhaps? I empathise with how difficult it is to talk about Doctor Who in detail when the emphasis has to be so squarely on Sherlock-as you say later sometimes it needs the context to be able to explain the concept in the first place!
Well it’s mentioned in my essay so maybe you don’t have to make the connection here if it shifts focus away from the subject too much.
I agree with charvey that the Adams link is important. Moffat (and RTD for that matter) always cite Adams as their artistic muse and inspiration for the screwball/slapstick tone of nu-Who…I think the influence spreads to Sherlock. This authorial link has been well-publicised. Moffat, for instance, is the main contributor to this Radio 4 documentary: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00rp3dw
I guess I’m just overly sensitive to arguments that suggest something is specific to nu-Who when it has in fact been going on for decades within the show. Sorry to inflict my bugbears on your excellent essay! I did a lot of research for another book essay on the production of Doctor Who, and it seemed like they always had that transmedia/merchandising impulse (the Target novels, games, manuals etc.) but perhaps it wasn’t self-evident BBC policy as it is in the digital era.
Agreed-see my earlier comment.
Wow, there’s a lot of fascinating stuff going on in this abstract. But I think that–for an abstract–it’s a bit too much. I’d suggest you prioritize the pieces of your argument that you want to address in detail here versus those that you can just gesture to at the abstract stage. I actually wonder if a key part of your argument gets buried in the midst of all the detail. The mention of the “fan-author” seems to come from out of nowhere, and then you retreat from the mention, returning to comparing ACD and the BBC version of Moriarty and the threat that he represents. I’d like to see you take a step back and rethink which details and subtleties are crucial for your abstract and which can wait.
Re: this line:
“While Sherlock masters fears of terrorist bombers and serial killers by tracing them back to the playful and deadly hand of Jim Moriarty, the Doyle stories do not deal with these fears directly, but supplant them with something else altogether, eliding political concerns about violent anarchists to depict instead private ones like a wronged lover or a less-evolved Andaman Islander with an exotic array of poisoned darts.”
First off, I wonder about the order. Why start with Sherlock and then go to ACD? Wouldn’t it make more sense to invert them?
Secondly, all the details about the Andaman Islander example definitely distract from your argument.
But finally, couldn’t one argue that Holmes’ concern for the dangers that lurk within quiet country homes and within private family units was about a recognition of the political within the social? I mean, not that ACD or Sherlock would put it that way 😀 But the abuses of power within personal, private, and community spaces that ACD depicts offer their own form of social critique. I feel that the Andaman Islander example oversimplifies slightly (at least as phrased here) the relationship between the type of terror Sherlock‘s Jim perpetrates and the type that ACD’s Holmes contends with.
ETA: On the point of starting with Sherlock and moving to ACD, I only questioned the logic of the flow in the context of that one sentence in the abstract. The path along that route makes much more sense in the flow of the introduction below.
Love this opening paragraph, especially the bit gesturing to the bringing of the terror of John’s wartime experience back to London.
I’m with you in thls last paragraph, up until the last sentence, where I lose the thread a bit. So, this sentence:
“In this narrative, there is an underlying order to criminal enterprise that defies fears of anarchic, urban violence and global terrorism, and the ironically heroic Sherlock can duel Jim to stop it—if at the potential cost of Sherlock’s and John’s lives when Sherlock takes aim at the explosives pack in the final scene of “The Great Game.”’
Which narrative? ACD’s Holmes? Sherlock’s adaptation of ACD’s Holmes? And how is Sherlock’s heroism ironic? I’m thinking you mean the BBC’s adaptation and reworking of ACD’s Holmes here, but perhaps you mean both. I get a little stuck on this point because as you argue below Moriarty as criminal mastermind only appears retroactively in ACD’s storyworld, and the larger sense is of pervasive criminality at all levels of society and humanity.
I love the argument in this paragraph. But I feel you skip a step at the end (as in the abstract) with the move to the fan-author. Or rather, the step is in there but it is not totally explicit, re: how you get from criminal-author to fan-author. Jim functions as the criminal-author, stand in for Moffat and Gattis, who are themselves positioning their authorship as *fanboy*-authorship. And thus we can see Jim as fan-author, fascinating by and playing with Sherlock just as do Moffat and Gattis, and as do we (fans/fan-authors). So at the heart here, there’s a reconfiguration of the (official) author as fan-author, perhaps?
The argument throughout this section is compelling & strong, but before moving on, it would be helpful to sign post how this feeds back in to your larger argument.
The argument I questioned in the abstract is certainly more clearly put here, though I still wonder if there would be a way to pose this argument while acknowledging the way in which ACD’s focus on the corruptions lurking in the personal could itself be seen as social critique.
Regarding the following line:
“a depiction that seems at odds with much of his earlier portrayal as ethical more so than altruistic.”
It could be helpful to spend another sentence (or half sentence) teasing out this distinction between ethics vs. altruism as it relates to Sherlock.
I adore this idea:
“If Jim might be read as a stand-in for Sherlock’s Moffat and Gatiss, creators in pursuit of the enigmatic, popular character Sherlock Holmes, who is famous for his impenetrable disguises and survives in countless media incarnations, let’s first consider Doyle’s own deadly pursuit of Sherlock Holmes.”
And I know you’ve alluded to it earlier. But there’s so much going on in this sentence; consider breaking into two, to bring your reader from step a) interpretation of Jim as Moffat & Gattis, to Step 2) ACD’s relationship to his creation?
I really love the way you weave smoothly between your discussion of ACD and Sherlock. Fascinating and very nicely executed.
Also, terrific analysis of Jim & Sherlock in this paragraph.
Is this notion of Jim as an arch-enemy whose downfall is enabled by his traceable/visible criminal authorship complicated at all by the other thread of your argument–that Jim as criminal author represents the fanboy-auteur?
You could perhaps address the revisitation of the “rache” in ASiP as a similar dismissal of the political in favor of the personal, but in this case (since it is playfullly inverted, and only misguided Anderson thinks the word could really be German) it also serves as a intertextual marker of Mark and Gattis as fanboy auteurs purposefully referencing and updating ACD’s canon, with flourish no less.
But to contain the performative terror of Jim would be to contain the fanboy auteur, which isn’t really a desired outcome suggested by the text’s seriality, is it? Perhaps it is also a matter of transformation into something pleasurable?
Absolutely love this last sentence/point:
“In acknowledging the pleasures of its fictional world, Sherlock implicitly endorses fan culture and the pleasures of escapism as a relief from the twenty-first century environment, harkening back to the popularity of the original series.”
Your abstract is almost overwhelmingly wordy, with very lengthy sentences and innumerable clauses. I often found myself having to stop and give a sentence a twice or third read before I could feel sure I knew what you were trying to get across. This also carries into your introduction somewhat. (I’ll point out particular places below.) Once you get out of the summary/intro stage, though, your writing becomes much more natural and easy for the reader to follow. In fact, I really enjoyed reading your paper once I got to that point. So, I would suggest that you not try to be so ambitious in your abstract and introduction. Just give us a general overview, nothing too detailed – just enough to make us interested in what you’re going to then unravel for us. (Along the same lines as Louisa’s first comment.)
This is maybe just personal preference, but it usually seems to work better when authors write their abstract from scratch, rather than directly quoting bits of their paper. I just find it distracting because I’ll be reading a paper and everything’s going well, until a sentence pops up that sounds overwhelmingly familiar in the midst of what was otherwise entirely new writing that I was following with interest. Basically, it disrupts the flow, because my brain has to take a second to go, “Oh yes, that was in the abstract, it must be their main point,” before I can return to reading. If you could rewrite your abstract so that it doesn’t use direct quotes from your paper, I think it would create a better overall effect for the reader.
You have a few extremely long sentences in this paragraph. The one with the colon is okay, but I suggest the sentences which follow it be a little shorter, in order to give the reader a breather. The last sentence in particular I think would benefit from some breaking up.
This is a great paragraph showing the clear difference in the two versions of Moriarty. However, the last couple of sentences are again hard to follow, mostly because of their length. Just try taking it a little slower, instead of trying to cram so many ideas into just one sentence.
I’m a little confused as to how your last sentence connects to the rest of the paragraph. I can somewhat see the connection when I really look, but a clearer reference to the paragraph’s overall themes would be great.
This is the last paragraph in which I find myself occasionally overwhelmed by too many words. When a sentence uses more than one comma, please look and see whether it can be split into two sentences that the reader would find easier to handle. Such as “Famously hewing the formula for so many detective stories to come… etc” which is a bit of a mouthful in its totality.
Now, this is what I mean by wonderfully clear writing. Your argument is broken down into manageable pieces and each sentence is tightly focused on getting across one main idea.
I love this connection between the original Holmes and the new Moriarty.
Like Louisa, I love the models of authorship argument as represented by the criminal and the detective here. In my essay, I also see Moriarty as a representative of the ‘fan-author’ (though I find this sort of malevolent on the part of Moffat & co). I wonder though in this sentence: “Jim Moriarty, in his decadence and doubling with Sherlock, in his role as criminal-author to Sherlock’s detective-reader” how Watson fits into this paradigm. Earlier you mention John as Jim’s voice and with Watson as the ostensible ‘author’ of the Sherlock Holmes stories, I wonder if there’s another layer of doubling there as well, with Moriarty actually ‘stealing’ the original authorial voice? Maybe you get into this later, but I thought I’d mention it.
I wonder if the link/transition between your observations re: authorship (in the previous paragraph) and the personalization of terror (as opposed to the free floating terror anxiety of both Victorian London and, well, today’s London as well, now that I think about it) could be made more explicit here.
I love this!! What a great identification of the authorial ambivalence already encoded within the stories.
I also really like the way you use Wilde as a touchstone for the artistic decadence of Sherlock’s Jim — it’s another way the Victorian aesthetic is embodied in the text of the tv show.
When John complains about the ‘arch-enemy’ being absurd, isn’t he also taking Holmes’s role in the original stories? (By highlighting the sensationalism of the story he is in, I mean, like you talked about in the authorial ambivalence bit.) I keep seeing another layer in the doubling of authorship I guess, with the John/Watson parts.
I think this essay is chock full of fabulous points! The only thing I would say in a general way is whether you could tie the question of political terror transmuting into a personal story (which is so fascinating!) into the question of criminal authorship a little more explicitly. I see that there IS a connection, but I’m still a little vague on exactly what you’re saying that connection is.
Yes, I need to make it clearer that I’m referring to Sherlock’s approach to an idea that shows up in relation to the original Moriarty but is unsustainable there. I can make the (limited) point about Sherlock’s heroism better later.
Very good point. I do address this later in a limited way, but I should think it through a bit more. In Todorov’s model, the criminal has the primary authorial voice, since the narrative of the investigation is secondary. The doubling of Jim with John is clearly underlined here, but while John chronicles Sherlock’s cases, it seems Jim is choreographing his actions by writing the case, forcing him to react.
Thanks, I can definitely work on making that connection clearer from the beginning!
Very good point! I’ll develop this a little more.
Yes, I like that reading.
I see your point. I suppose we might read his downfall as a marker of the position of the fan-author, whose appropriation of the source both appreciates and challenges the source. The series, as it riffs good-naturedly on the Holmes canon, acknowledges its derivative nature. Does this adequately address this issue?
(As a random aside, I keep thinking that the arch-enemy can be the best role, though Gatiss plays Mycroft.)
the series’s derivative nature
Yes, yes–that’s a very good point. Thanks!
Good idea–will do.
Thanks, everyone. I can certainly work to complicate the argument a bit, clarify the theme/style, and improve the connection between the two larger themes.
I had a similar response to this abstract as the commenters above. Also, this may be a style question for Nina and Louisa (or even something they’ve specifically asked authors to do for this collection), but the use of “Jim” here when referencing Moriarty was off-putting. I think you’re doing this to classify between the two incarnations of the character, but throughout the essay I found it distracting. So, that is admittedly an incredibly nitpicky note, I would just go with whatever the style guide, or Nina and Louisa, recommend.
Agreed with the above commenters, this is where your essay really takes off, and there are some wonderful points here (I especially liked your discussion of the reworked Reichenbach Falls). Considering the overlap with your abstract here, this would be a good place to unpack some of these ideas and terminology. Again. this might be a question for Louisa and Nina, but terms like “Wildean” and “fin-de-siecle” might warrant a bit of context.
Agreed, I especially loved the final sentence here, and this is an idea I would be interested to see you expand on, especially when considering some of Louisa’s comments above re: the criminal-author and fan-author.
I really like this paragraph, it’s clear and beautifully written.
Agreed with Louisa, this is a fascinating idea, just presented too abruptly. Perhaps you could begin this paragraph with the idea you get to mid-paragraph, re: Holmes biggest threat coming from his creators, and then transition into how Moriarty is used as an author-god stand-in more broadly.
We actually asked authors to use John and Sherlock to illustrate present day characters, and Ellen and I talked about the Moriarty issue. I suggested Jim, but my need for clear categories obviously overwhelmed good style here 🙂
Sorry, I meant to post earlier that I will toss this abstract and provide a better one as I revise the paper. (Intending to further revise it, I threw it together hastily when I realized that my HUGE proposal had been used as an abstract on this site–and not intending for everyone to have to trouble with it so much!)
I wonder if you might make a more nuanced statement re: ‘Science’ and ‘Faith’ (why capitalize, by the way?) in relation to the Victorian detective story as a whole, which is more varied than you seem to give it credit for. Conan Doyle certainly privileges reason over faith, but there was a another thread in the fabric of the detective story that was a sort of union between faith and rationalism as, for example, in the works of the theologian/detective story writer G.K. Chesterton.
You seem to be arguing against yourself a little here. In the previous paragraph you read Sherlock’s paleness and illumination as a metaphor for the “light of scientific reason”, and here you are talking about the scientist’s (and general populace’s) tendency to see things dogmatically. Try to make your distinction a little clearer here. Are you saying Sherlock is a ‘real’ scientist, as opposed to ‘real life’ scientists who aren’t? Or what exactly?
Throughout this essay, I’m a little puzzled by your deployment of both ‘post-modern’ and ‘Victorian age’ — it’s unclear to me whether you’re talking about a time period, a zeitgeist, or what. Perhaps you could define these terms in a more specific manner that doesn’t rely so much on generalization; that way, I think your argument could be more successfully targeted.
Moriarty as evil!god (i.e. dance, puppets, dance!) is a fascinating idea. But doesn’t the whole Van Buren supernova thing mean that… he didn’t know about it? Or are you saying that he was being sporting and leaving Sherlock a clue so that he could figure it out? Or that he didn’t really want to get away with it? Maybe you could make this more clear.
I don’t disagree that Moriarty is unstable (of course!) but I’m not sure that the planning works as opposition to the eroticization of his relationship with Sherlock. Because seductions are often well planned, you know? Maybe instead you could stress the fragmentation of using other people’s voices in order to say ‘hello sexy’ as a sign of the instability?
Also! I’m not sure you’ve successfully made the case for Moriarty as the incompatible science/faith past and Sherlock as the harmonious future. Sherlock, too, is not exactly what anyone would refer to as stable…? As you argue further down, John may be a stabilizing influence, but he’s also an adrenaline junkie, you know? Is there a way you can problematize this a little bit? I worry that it’s coming out a little too pat.
Your reading of the astronomical imagery in the fanfiction pieces you mention is nice! I wonder if the entire essay would be more successful if you focused more specifically on the astronomy (as read through the science and faith lenses), and less on these huge concepts of capital ‘S’-science and capital ‘F’-faith, which are harder to pin down in a specific way, without making generalizations that are difficult to prove effectively.
I’ll definitely look into that when I’m back in the US in July and have better access to research materials. As for my capitalization, it’s partially due to the Victorian tendency to capitalize the terms “Science” and “Faith.” But also, it’s a way of clarifying that I’m talking about the idea of Science (rational thought, a logical approach, etc) rather than the actual practice of science itself, and similar for Faith.
Ah, I think I didn’t quite outline my comparison very well here. (Thanks for drawing attention to it!) I’m not saying that all scientists aren’t willing to change their method of thinking – in fact, many are – but great changes in world view (such as the heliocentric model or relativity) required a great deal of time to take place, largely because most of the older scientists who were familiar with the old method of thought weren’t willing to accept such a radically different approach. It took younger scientists, who hadn’t spent such a great many years supporting the older idea, to really get the change in thought going. So, I’m saying that Sherlock is more like one of the proactive, young scientists (more willing to change), while perhaps Lestrade (or maybe more Anderson) would be more like one of the older scientists. I’ll be sure to make this clearer in revision.
Actually, it’s quite clear from the episode that Moriarty DOES know about the Van Buren supernova – since not only does Moriarty require that Sherlock figure out the painting is a fake, but he also requires Sherlock to provide the reason why. The way I saw it (and most of fanfiction has agreed) is that Moriarty chose every crime in TGG with the intention of having Sherlock figure it out (eventually) – as, I think, Ellen also suggests in her paper, if I’m remembering correctly, that Moriarty specifically engineers the crimes so that only Sherlock can figure them out and no lesser detective (such as Lestrade or John).
Good point. (Especially considering Moriarty’s seduction of Sherlock in this case is VERY well-planned.) I’ll see what I can do about changing that.
Alright, I think I’ll probably spend some more time looking at John and how he plays into the relationship in the canon material. (I think I give him more time in my fanfic section, but it’s true that I should also give him more consideration here as well.)
I don’t think this point has been earned – I’ve not seen explanation for how Sherlock embodies a new attitude toward faith, nor do I buy that Holmes’s humanization is so vital to his character. Since we only have 3 stories of the two of them together, you need to make the case for why he’s changed as a character under Holmes’ influence and what that has to do with faith.
This is an abrupt transition – you need to better explain why you’re going from textual analysis into reading fan fiction. How does this tie to your core argument? What is to be learned from fanfic’s treatment of these issues?
This essay points to some interesting facets of the multiple texts of the franchise, from the literary to television to fanfic incarnations. I remain unconvinced, however, that there is truly a shift in attitudes toward “Faith” as you identify it – you really need to nuance your discussion of that topic and be more explicit in detailing how the show & fanfic shift the treatment of Science in that direction. You seem to suggest that this shift is related to cultural contextual shifts, but do not really explain them in detail. The use of the terms post-modern and faith are too fuzzy, and I’m not sure that you apply them consistently within the essay or larger academic uses.
The shift to fanfic is too abrupt – essentially, you’re making a giant methodological leap without any justification or explanation. What is to be gained by studying fanfic representations? What is the knowledge effect toward the “original” (whatever that means in such an expansive franchise) and cultural circulation? You seem to suggest that the fanfic is evidence of how the TV show can be understood, but such claims need to be made more carefully and explicitly.
I really enjoy the premise of this, and I think that the fic you’re addressing by candle_beck is a wonderful text to consider how fans are acknowledging and engaging with these themes. The problems here, as many of the commenters have already noted, circulate around your sweeping use of the terms “science” and “faith,” and how you’re wedding together your analysis of the novels and TV series with fan produced texts. While I enjoy your analysis of candle_beck’s story, the essay might benefit from reducing your remarks on how fans grapple with these themes in order to more thoroughly explore how the balance between faith and science shifts from the novels to the television series (and what these shifts reflect, or what prompts them culturally). The claim that there is an attempt to reconcile science and faith in Sherlock is one thing, to tie this claim to a broader post-modern drive to unify them needs further support. More specific comments follow in the paragraphs below. Again, I really enjoyed the premise of this, and I think a lot of the context you establish for the Victorian Holmes is wonderful, I just think the claim that you close your abstract with needs to be worked through in more detail. Accordingly, trimming some of the section on fanfic, or limiting your engagement to candle_beck’s story, might be something to consider.
The quote that closes this paragraph is wonderful, and clearly articulates how you’re positioning Doyle’s Holmes. I know Jason took issue with how you’re using “post-modern” throughout, I had a similar response to how you use “morality” throughout. Considering that much of your characterization of Holmes on the science/faith continuum hinges on this, I would like a bit of clarification (here, ideally, as it’s the first time you invoke it) on what you mean by “morality” and its significance.
Your clarification above really helps, btw. I could also use a bit more context here on 1. why science and faith “must be reconciled,” and 2. why this is happening now.
Again, the notes above really help- I think the revisions you already have planned will resolve many of the questions I had.
Agreed with the above comment. To that end, the remark here about how “survival in the post-modern world requires adaptability” reminded me of the quote early in your essay of Holmes “Darwinian” features. Considering that remark was re: Doyle’s Holmes, and you’re discuss the postmodern Holmes of the television series here, perhaps Holmes has always been an “adaptable” creature and the balance between science and faith is presented to reflect the period? In any case, this issue of “adaptability” is one that might be used as a through line to help make these demarcations between the various Holmes in various contexts clearer.
I feel like more could/should be done with your characterization of Moriarty as a “God-like” figure here, the balance he strikes between Science and Faith, and how this differs from Sherlock’s union of the two.
Re: considering John in more detail, that came to mind repeatedly throughout your section on the contemporary Sherlock. In particular, I found myself wanting more explanation of the last few sentences here (“This destructive version…”) and wondering where John fits into this matrix.
Agreed, this is a jarring transition, and I’m not sure I understand the purpose of your methodology regarding which fics to focus on. Perhaps, if you reframed this transition to discuss why fanfiction is significant in parsing the faith/science balance of the character, and specifically focused on candle_beck’s story (performing a similar textual analysis to give this some resonance with the prior section), this would be more effective. I feel like much of the next 2 paragraphs could be condensed to articulate that many popular fan stories play with these themes (you can/should still cite them), and then channel this discussion through “Space Travel” (it feels a bit buried below). Also, considering the role that John plays in these stories as a source of balance, I think that’s all the more reason to grapple with his positioning above in your analysis of the novels/series.
I really enjoy your analysis of this fic.
Your discussion of the fic builds beautifully to this point, so the following couple of paragraphs felt unnecessary/tangential for me.
In your first lines, I think you’re citing the introduction here, rather than Doyle’s writing, so you might cite that separately as Klingler.
I like the background work that you’re doing here, but I find this sentence somewhat problematic: “This debate was compounded as the most basic values of the British Empire seemed to be dissolving into chaos.” I know that you are talking about values, but, while in debate, Britain was far from chaos in a political/social sense, so it might be good to moderate the language a bit.
I think you’ve done a really nice job on these paragraphs on Holmes and the Victorian milieu. Comes together quite well.
Interesting characterization overall, but this last sentence elides the perspective in “The Blind Banker,” which I read as Orientalist, emphasizing the exotic/foreign.
This new Sherlock lacks the great morality that Doyle’s Holmes possessed, relying constantly on John to explain the baffling rules of social interaction to him.
I’m confused about the contrast between the two Holmeses here. Perhaps you can clarify what you mean by morality–and how that connects to the second half of the sentence on social interaction. I think you have an interesting point here.
Without John to guide him, Sherlock is Moriarty
I get your point here, but I still think it’s worth pointing out Moriarty is similar to Sherlock in some ways, but, as problematic as Sherlock can be, he is hardly as sadistic or violent as Moriarty (even prior to/discounting John’s influence on Sherlock). Also, Sherlock seems to have an ethical system that predates John. When Sally tells John something to the effect that she expects to find Sherlock as the killer someday, I think the viewer is meant to reject that even as s/he gets Sherlock’s pleasure in corpses because of the puzzles they entail (an obvious reflection back to the fans).
I really like your fanfiction readings, and I think you are doing a nice job of complicating your Victorian comparisons. Really a fascinating project! Here’s one small clarification:
Sherlock Holmes was a guiding light for the Victorians, showing how rationality could protect them from the unknown outside world they so feared.
I’m not sure that I agree with this characterization, since the valorization of rationality for the Victorians occurs much before SH. The stories tap into an existing viewpoint rather than originate that viewpoint.
Ah, good point. I fear I may have been a little affected by too much fanfiction – which overall takes great delight in playing with Sherlock’s similarity to Moriarty. Thanks for pointing this out!
I’ll put that in – thanks for mentioning it.
Yeah, I would definitely write that differently now having read other people’s papers. (Also, since TBB is my least favorite episode and I hardly mention it anywhere in my paper, I think I just plain forgot about it.) Thanks for bringing that up!
Will do – Scott also asked me to clarify morality above, so hopefully I can start by sorting things out that way.
Good point – I’ll be sure to see what I can make of it.
Alright, that sounds like a good idea – I’ll see what I can do.
Actually, the following paragraphs weren’t originally in the paper, but someone else pointed out that I should follow my lines of analysis through from one section to the next – so, if I discuss Moriarty in my previous section, I should also discuss him here (especially if I’m talking about fanfic reflecting similar themes as the show).
I think my wording could be adjusted there to allow for that. Thanks!
I feel like the political dimension of Haraway’s cyborg needs to be explained a bit more in this paragraph and the next. Why Sherlock, and why this Sherlock. Because while you’re arguing that female fans take up this Sherlock under the banner of the feminist cyborg, it is the source text that offers this interpretation, right?
I think this entire section might profit from a stronger thesis paragraph. I kept on reading about detectives and feminism and embodiment and it all seemed related but I wasn’t quite getting why this why now. Maybe some condensing (esp in favor of potentially expanding the asexual fanfic) but definitely a clearer explanation of what you’re doing here.
OK, let me see if I parse this section correctly: (male) detectives are initially all computer collection brain but when women started writing it, the body became more important and the detective stories became more embodied. Which left female detectives with…intuition? Neither brains nor bodies?
I wonder if rather than presenting it as this historical teleological narrative it might be better to show how the mind/body detective has haunted the genre from the beginning and how both parts get i turn repressed (maybe with the female detective misogyny at its core)? Or is that not really what you’re saying?
It is a literature written by (and for) the sexual mind and the intellectual body.
I kind of want to frame this sentence 🙂
I really would rather see a variety of Sherlock fanfic plots here, but I’d like to hear others chime in. (Incidentally, i spend 2-4 am last night reading all of AO3’s asexual!Holmes fic…) Damn you! 😀
I feel like too much is going on here: fanfic writers like the exemplary Spock and Sherlock bc of their alien brainniness and fanfic writers write the merging of the body and brain and Sherlock and Spock are particularly good at it but…asexuality is a particular way to address this issue and asexual fanficx is a function of (1) Sherlock being this exemplary candidate and (2) asexuality exemplifying these tendencies and (3) asexuality advocacy becoming more central. i think it’s the last issue that needs a bit more unraveling, i.e., there is more ace fic but Sherlock is overproportionally ace for all these reasons you’re describing? I think this is where I’d maybe include that smarm footnote as well, because that addresses (2)–how asexuality or other forms of sexual engagements satisfy particular fan desires (Lamb&Veith would fit in here as well, I assume).
Interesting point. Though I assume a form of intertextuality will be at work with readers pulling from illustrations, films and televisions to provide a mental image of Holmes.
Following on your line of argument, if Sherlock is the independent, individual thinker, sitting on the outside, the policeman represents the bureaucratic view, he is part of an organisation putting forward common sense views? A role that seems to be replicated through many works of detective fiction.
Yes… though some times through the very rapid delivery and mental agility one is reminded of someone taking some form of drug – which he did take in the novels. You also started to make me think about the perceived mental state of Sherlock, for some it might appear as if he was on the verge of a breakdown. With the huge expenditure of energy, one is almost waiting for the down side. Perhaps there is always some fear of the outsider, those that are different, and one way to contain this is to label them as being mad.
Though I enjoy this argument (also in the previous and later paragraphs), I wonder if it’s all that easy. I have some troubles with the idea that Holmes is more bodiless in Doyle’s writing. First, your argument is that films and theatre plays certainly have more attention to the body because characters are mediated by actors. Though this claim seems obvious, I wonder whether it’s true when you actually close-read Sherlock Holmes or written stories in general (fan fiction after all learned us that writing can be highly embodied, as you also stated). Second, you claim that the novel relies more on deduction. Still, I think there certainly are aspects in the novel where attention is drawn to his body. His addiction to cocaine which is sometimes hinted at and even playing the violin are moments where the reader will certainly think of him as more than just rational. Moreover, we see little of Sherlock Holmes’ bodily habits because the books are focalized by Watson as a main character. Just some pointers to think about,
Interesting take on Sherlock. Like Kristina, I have some problems with this explanation that I’ll put in my overall review above. I also wonder – because you link it to the fans later and women and asexuality – in what way you understand the term. Also, I’m wondering a bit about Cumberbatch’ embodiment here. You call him more embodied because he has energetic moods and hurries through London, but that is not how Harraway understands embodiment I think nor would it prove he’s more embodied in a general sense. For instance, there are a lot of moments even in Sherlock where attention is drawn away from Sherlock’s body. You already mentioned his technological persona. To elaborate this a bit further, even when you physically see him, he is not always occupied with his body and still givea a rational, bodiless expression. I specifically remember scenes in which we for instance see John drinking or eating and in which Sherlock, like Doyle’s Holmes, does not consume anything. Similarly his disinterest for love and emotions shows him to be quite ‘dis’embodied. Perhaps you could strenghten the point a bit.
I like this paragraph. Still, is there not more to it? ‘Breating is boring’ and not eating and addiction all highlight a kind of dependency of the body too that Sherlock is trying to get away from. There’s more to it than cyborgism/technology/boosting brainpower, I feel.
I would like to see a clearer bridge to slash and why you adress it here. It just doesn’t fit the argument that much yet. Why is this important for understanding the cyborg/mind-body situation? Also, how does the development of Sherlock as a socio-moral character fit in that with which you start the paragraph? I like the comparison to Spock a lot btw.
I love this paragraph. This is what I feel should be at the heart of this section but it’s clouded by discussions on slash as a atypical romantic/sexual genre. The idea that the body can be more highlighted in these genres should be your starting point I think, and also that this is not so different from bodily habits that fan fiction authors in written fiction tend to focus on (e.g. eating, toilets, etc). There’s many ways to give a place to the body and slash is somethign you see as an example of this. Play around with the paragraphs in this section a bit, I would say, then you can get a strong argument out of it.
Good essay until now but it can be stronger. I love the way you end with Spock and so on, it makes a lot of sense. Now only substantiate the cyborg claim a bit more and recap it a bit.
Dear Francesca, this is a more general comment on your essay which will be substantiated by short comments on the paragraphs themselves. I highly enjoyed the essay and it reminded me a lot of your earlier one in Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet, in which you also argued for a view on performance/the body in fan fiction. This, in a way, seems a realization of the task you set at hand back then and I still praise the original angle you have towards performance and embodiment. The essay plays this out very well through the theoretical perspective of the cyborg which resonates interestingly with certain examples, like the comparisons you draw with Spock and the discussion on asexuality. What I find less balanced or convincing are the parts in which Sherlock is kind of rendered absent and in which the argument of the cyborg seems to disappear or where it’s uneasy why certain information is told.
Notably The Lie of the Mind section feels too much like a side-step than a core argument that really helps to understand Sherlock and what is happening to the body here. Though it provides interesting background information about the detective as a genre and how the body got a different role there, I feel it draws attention away from your main argument which depicts Sherlock as a cyborg (e.g. a liminal figure in many ways in which technology and the mind find convergence and also, a figure characterized by his boundary crossing in terms of sexuality.) I feel that all in all, too much attention is paid to few sources that do not substantiate this argument well. I also wonder if the ending with film noir and the underdog role of women is still comparable to detective novels today that have undergone quite some feministic changes the last decennia.
The Truth of The Body, then, feels more at ease with your main argument, though I am a bit skeptical about the attention given to slash here and what sexuality (or eating food or exercising for that matter) really means for the overall framework of embodiment and whether it really is comparable with Donna Haraway’s theory.
I really enjoyed the asexuality paragraph then, and find it also cleverly fits the argument, but I wonder here whether there can’t be more attention on what really happens to the body here and how that relates to cyborgs. Here, I also feel a bit at a loss since you often speak of the cyborg as something that fans do like in the paragraph about slash, by giving voice to the ‘inbetweens’, to marginalized groups or different ways of staging your sexuality. In a similar way, you talk about the cyborg as something that fans are as well (because they are women, intellectuals; and because they are women who identify with Sherlock as an ambigeous main character). In a way, you can draw some comparisons here to Harraway and how she uses the concept when she talks about women, but it could be better explained.
In short, you distill a lot of themes from Sherlock by using the cyborg concept superficially but it would be excellent if you could point them out more. By explaining Harraway better in the beginning and by side-stepping less and balancing the sections more, I think you can make a very good argument out of this. I am convinced this will be a wonderful essay, good luck with your final draft! 🙂
The fanfiction case is dependent on live-action media providing the bodies, though there are obviously more and less somatic literary forms, But I’m talking about a giant generic distinction: stories told with text vs. stories told with bodies as the primary conveyor of meaning.
I totally have to clarify this because in fact, Cumberbatch is NOT at all the most embodied Holmes–RDJ is way more embodied (almost totally embodied, and therefore not very intellectually interesting, I’d say.) My point–and hence the necessity for the whole mind section–is that it is this Sherlock’s demonstration of the contradiction–both mind and body, a struggle between mind and body – that makes him a cyborg that makes him interesting: he is BOTH a technological disembodied persona AND an embodied moving actor. I will definitely revise the “Breathing is Boring” para to thematize–as with the not eating–that Sherlock is a guy who struggles with being a body–and see, I’d say “as many intellectual women do.” Thank you, this was clarifying!
I think I see your point, but I’m still struggling with ACD’s Holmes as “by turns invisible, polymorphic, or problematical, there only to be overlooked or repressed, both within the stories and by the reader.” Such a sweeping statement, and I recall the stories frequently treating Holmes as a physical being–getting in altercations and getting beat up, declining or relishing meals based on his need to focus on mental labor, contorting his body uncomfortably to make his disguises more effective. You might work this through for the reader a bit more.
Nice reading! The embodiment of ACD’sWatson’s description of him as a “cold, calculating machine.” I’m also thinking of him as a late-century decadent figure.
The subtext here seems to be that ACD’s Holmes should be set in opposition to the blurring of binaries of Sherlock, but, arguably, ACD’s Holmes might be read as a collapser of binaries himself–decadent characteristics, drug use, sexuality (whether gay or otherwise, refusing the typical Victorian paradigm represented by Watson), etc. Certainly the stories show his atavistic, primitive side as well as the cultured one. You may be sidestepping this issue by mentioning the time of the stories rather than the stories themselves, but it could be worth a bit more consideration.
But you must acknowledge that this is a (satisfying?) characteristic of detective fiction as formula fiction–the, ahem, “gentleman’s agreement” not too look too closely at the deductions. John Hodgson’s essay on the immense, ridiculous flaws in ACD’s favorite story “The Speckled Band” takes this up if it’s of any interest. You might want to get a bit more into the criticism here (which takes this up quite a bit in ACD) if it’s relevant to the larger argument here.
I really like this reading, too.
Agreed. I see the point of these scenarios, but Sherlock plots would be a more helpful point of reference.
Yes, I like the way you bring this together, but it would be good for you to recap the themes of the project here and develop your conclusions a bit.
I like what you’re trying to do here, but this section covers a lot of ground quickly. It also seems to digress a bit from your primary–and fascinating, more groundbreaking–central argument. You might consider paring this part down and pulling it closer to your Sherlock discussion. Some of the broader claims here would benefit from more support/connection to current critical discourse on these issues.
Fascinating, rich, original take on this subject. I agree with Nicolle that the Lie of the Mind section is weakest–it does not seem core to the argument and makes some sweeping claims that need moderation and/or support. I’ve made some comments throughout. Enjoyed this piece thoroughly!
Fabulous! I’m also thinking of the bit from ‘Mazarin Stone’ where Conan Doyle has Holmes say “I am a brain, my dear Watson, and the rest of me is a mere appendage” or something like that.
In reading this collapsing of barriers between mind/body/machine I’m reminded of this article: Linden, G., Chi, E.H., and Guzdial, M. The chaos of the internet as an external brain. ACM. 2010, 10-11
How do you read the reception of a more ‘fair’ story, where the reader/viewer is able to accurately guess the conclusion ahead of the supposedly superior detective?
And let’s not forget the comment from the unaired pilot in the restaurant scene, where Sherlock much more clearly explains himself as the (asexual? brain for whom the body and its sexual functions are mere appendages so to speak…
I make the same point (albeit much more briefly) in my essay in this book. I will be sure to acknowledge this essay and direct readers to it for an expanded discussion of this concept, which I use fleetingly.
This is such a simple statement, but it packs a wonderful punch, and nicely articulates many of the central themes that circulate within the anthology. Easy to overlook or forget these seemingly overt examples, I’m thrilled to see you foregrounding them here.
I tripped over the same sentence that Ellen notes above. I think you have a compelling argument here, so perhaps an additional sentence or two is in order to flesh this out? A few quick examples? Even if you offload that to a footnote, it would be useful for the reader.
Agreed with the above commenters, this is a beautifully written paragraph.
Like your discussion of the cyborg below, and the image above, I wonder if this is more about combining/hybridizing real and virtual space than about the viewer moving between the two.
Great paragraph, but I agree that this binary busting might be more of a trait of Sherlock as a character (and, perhaps, an explanation of his continued popularity)- certainly, the contemporary series makes these cyborg qualities more explicit. You don’t totally close the door here to reading Conan Doyle as taking as swipe at the narratives of his time, so perhaps this speaks to Nina’s questions above re: your characterization of the character as a cyborg- why this Holmes? (Or, if Holmes generally, maybe make this more explicit here).
As some of the commenters noted on the piece as a whole, this section is difficult to parse. I think I see where you’re going with this section, providing context for the appeal of Sherlock’s cyborg presence (especially for female fans), but I found myself asking many of the same questions as Nina.
I’m going to have to politely disagree with Nicolle here, I think the argument builds wonderfully to this paragraph.
Possible to rephrase this sentence, so it reads as a description that conveys the plot detail without assuming that the reader hasn’t viewed the episode?:
But there is one detail that Sherlock misreads: he thinks the engraved “Harry” on John’s smartphone indicates that John has a brother when it actually indicates he has a sister named Harriett, who happens to have an estranged wife.
You could perhaps rephrase something along the lines of:
But when Sherlock misreads…
Sherlock’s misreading of the engraved “Harry”… encapsulates…
Indeed, maybe you could condense these two sentences, which also could make room for an invocation of the digital in this opening paragraph, acknowledging where the essay will lead the reader by the end.
The digital (and thus the argument in the second half of the essay) is quite buried in this paragraph, within this sentence:
Thus, as Sherlock takes a page from the “Year One” comics genre by reassembling the canon for a modern audience, its exclusions, revisions, and adaptations reveal contemporary cultural anxieties, stubborn continuities, and transformations in the city’s structure and politics from industrial to post-industrial, scientific to digital, and imperial to neo-colonial
It would be useful to reorganize, perhaps to move scientific to digital to the last of this set of three (so it would read: industrial to post-industrial, imperial to neo colonial, and scientifica to digital). Then you could either add another sentence immediately after that gestures to the argument regarding the digital in the second half of the essay, or you could rewrite the final two sentences to better represent the full scope of the essay.
Here too, in this line, you could usefully reference the digital dimension of the second half of this essay’s argument:
In both cases, Holmes relies on the technology of social typology to make the chaos of the city comprehensible, but while Doyle offered the image of a new kind of scientific hero as the solution to security in London, Sherlock often reveals the illusory nature of such fantasies of social control.
In other words, you could get at the notion that this “new kind of scientific hero” is transformed in Sherlock into a new kind of digital hero, who is adept at navigating digital tools, or who has even internalized their logics, and yet who fails to fully achieve social control via digital means.
The opening line of this paragraph references Sherlock the character, yes, not the series?
Just have to express my appreciation for this line:
In either case, Sherlock’s inability to decode sexuality, along with his own non-normative desires, present modern London as sexually heterogeneous and thus opaque; hat caretaking can no longer be taken for granted.
This paragraph has so much pressed into it. I wonder if you could streamline this somewhat? Do you definitely need the Stoler to make your argument here? The phrasing is so dense that you don’t have time to make clear what it adds re: colonial agents and colonial subjects, and the discussion of the shift from medieval city to broad boulevard interrupts the flow of your argument. Consider this paragraph as a place to streamline and cut.
Re: the last sentence of this paragraph: I feel like the parallel phrasing got lost in rewrite here. Replace people with crowds, so that the last phrase makes sense?
There’s so much detail here, in this and the next paragraph, so much so that it overwhelms the larger argument at this point–and if I am understanding correctly, this is a key step in your argument, yes?
My understanding is that a key point here (to the essay as a whole) is the following:
“… Sherlock does indeed qualify for many of the criteria listed on the standard Hare Psychopathy Checklist and constructs himself as incapable of empathy yet uniquely qualified as a detective due to the psychological disorder he shares with criminals… As such, his liberty in contemporary London remains subject to the discretion of the police.”
This notion that Sherlock polices and yet himself falls within the classification of to-be-policed seems crucial to your argument, but is lost in the details of these two paragraphs. Can you streamline to highlight this point and map out more directly how it fits into your larger argument?
Hmm. So, building on this and the next paragraph, perhaps the first season’s conclusion, by suggesting that Sherlock is indeed capable of having an authentic emotional relationship, does two contradictory things at once?:
1) as you say in the next paragraph, it unsettles clear cut notions of typology, suggesting human nature is subject to unpredicatable change
2) but at the same time, it also rescues Sherlock as a figure who, if properly conditioned into real relationships, no longer needs to be policed and can return to the clear cut job of policing (thus reasserting moral dichotomies?)
Whether or not you agree, I’d like to see you streamline a bit and more explicitly pull together what you do see as the larger arc and conclusion here, before we move on to technology.
I feel as if the argument of the last sentence (specifically, that Sherlock undermines such illusions of control) isn’t really focused on at any point throughout this section. Given that it is in your intro paragraph, I would expect it to be an idea of some importance and would appreciate more specific attention and explanation.
Love this paragraph! Wonderful attention to detail.
I might just not be in the know, but I feel that the phrase “dedicated bachelor” didn’t always necessarily indicate same-sex desires (although it might often have been used to suggest as much). Perhaps a rephrasing as “a condition often used…”?
Your reference here to Holmes reminding Watson of an innocent life at stake contrasts strikingly with the fact that it is John’s job to remind Sherlock of the very same in TGG. I’m not sure how you might want to incorporate that into your argument, but it seems too noteworthy to leave out.
While I overwhelmingly agree with your critique of the show’s portrayal of homelessness, it doesn’t seem to tie in very well with your argument. Perhaps a bit of transition to show how it links to your discussion of ASBO and DSPD?
Could you please provide an example for the deduction which requires empathy? (I’m guessing you mean the password of “Rachel”? Or is it something else?) Also, I think it would work better to refer to Sergeant Donovan by name, rather than saying “a policewoman,” as it limits confusion and also reminds readers that the officer criticizing Sherlock is of enough significance to be a named character.
I would wonder here why Moriarty (a similarly psychologically atypical person) is the one who correctly states that Sherlock’s self-assessment is inaccurate. Is the show thus suggesting that only those outside the norm can realize that such categorization doesn’t work?
These are some great points, but I would also suggest adding some consideration of the creators’ explanation for why Sherlock and John travel everywhere by taxi (which I believe is offered on the ASiP commentary) – that you simply can’t have the iconic Sherlock Holmes and John Watson riding in the Tube because it would seem completely bizarre for viewers used to a Holmes and Watson riding about in hansom cabs everywhere. Yes, logically it doesn’t make much sense for a man who has to split the rent to be taking cabs everywhere (nor does it make sense for him to wear designer clothing…), but certain concessions must sometimes be made for continuity or pure aesthetics.
I wonder if there is some connection here between the positive portrayal of digital surveillance and Sherlock’s reinforcement of particular cultural stereotypes. When you say that anything can befall John once he leaves the eye of the camera, it seems as if this might relate to people who are outside of the cultural norm – people who don’t fit into a well-categorized picture of London life.
While this is a great example, I feel that you don’t examine it close enough. (Probably just because I have spent far too many hours looking at it myself.) Sherlock’s dismissal of the solar system is complicated by the fact that it does, in fact, turn out to be useful – suggesting that Sherlock’s exclusionary approach to gathering data may be rather flawed. However, I would suggest you maybe also think about the fact that, when Sherlock finally DOES learn something about the solar system in order to solve the problem of the Vermeer, he relies on his mobile to provide the data he needs. (Which does, I think, provide good support for your argument.)
This is fantastically interesting and a great point! I wonder if you could perhaps expand it a little bit, talking more about how the viewer is required to be complicit with categorizing depictions throughout the show (which would also nicely tie back the end of your essay to the start). I remember upon my first viewing feeling quite a degree of distaste for Sherlock’s depiction of the homeless (and continue to do so every time I rewatch the scene). However, I still love the show overall… which makes it hard for me to then not feel personally guilty over liking a show which can be so orientalist and classist. So, perhaps some thoughts here as to the viewer’s unwilling involvement in the support of such ideas?
I feel that your conclusion is a rather lacking end to a great and interesting paper. Rather than just offering a summary of the ideas you’ve discussed, could you perhaps offer something new to think about in your last paragraph?
Re: the following: “In both cases, the figure of Sherlock Holmes offers reassurance. While Holmes’ scientific knowledge reassured nineteenth-century readers that order could exist in the industrial city, Sherlock’s technological expertise serves to ease twenty-first century viewers’ anxieties about the digital city and information management.”
Indeed! In fact, put this way, this has made me realize how not only does digital technology offer the promise of a city and society that can be managed, but it suggests that we could manage it along with Sherlock; he doesn’t use some fancy computer system, after all, but a blackberry and search engine. Just as the original Doyle created generations of amateur young sleuths counting the steps in a building and looking for a unexpected blot of ink or some such (speaking from experience here :D), Sherlock offers a vision of digital technology as societal management that is in reach of its users.
Hmm; obviously this is a bit of a tangent and there’s not necessarily room for this point in your argument–but maybe it’s something we could work into our introduction and reference your essay…
Re: the reference to the transmedia website, you’ll either be able to reference a point in another essay or our intro. One way or the other, we’ll be sure to have this discussed in greater depth somewhere.
The year one piece here feels a bit sewn in here; I’m not sure it is necessary, and I feel like it distracts from your building argument. It might be something to just come back to in conclusion, but not weave throughout?
Regarding this line:
These establishing shots serve to reaffirm that Sherlock was filmed on location in London (which in turn confirms Sherlock as British quality TV).
Perhaps another half a sentence indicating the tradition of British “Quality” TV shot on location in London? Or reference to a source that talks about this?
Re this point (and the following year one argument):
Television, film and photography have captured countless images of London and, as with many other global cities, the “famous” parts of London have become familiar to modern audiences through endless repetition in the media.
I feel like more pertinent is the way in which Sherlock Holmes in his very reincarnations has informed (especially non-British) viewers/readers of London’s geography. And again, I can’t help but feel that the Year One argument here is a distraction getting in the way of the meat of the argument re: the city, typology, the digital, and managing social threats. It’s not that the year one argument is invalid–I just don’t think it needs to be revisited at each point. Maybe all the year one analysis could be compiled and condensed a bit, and included as a frame at the opening and conclusion?
Love this point:
While fixed physical maps allow some measure of control over the city, it is Sherlock’s grasp of those parts of London that don’t appear on maps which allows him to navigate all of the city with confidence. Thus, even seemingly unruly dark alleys and rooftops become integrated into the logical system of Sherlock’s mind, offering a legible vision of London’s once frighteningly shady corners and twisted back alleys.
Is it just the fear that the amount of data is too overwhelming? Or rather does Sherlock suggest that in our attempts to filter, we might lose sight of the essential? So in a sense, it’s the combination of these two poles–overwhelming data without which we would be lost. And even Sherlock struggles to manage it all.
The transition to this paragraph and te discussion of TBB and the illegible cyphers could be more pointed, I think. If Sherlock uses digital technologies to navigate overwhelming amounts of potentially-vital information, then it is crucial that said information be traceable and legible, assumedly through digital means. So it’s not just that TBB shows a part of the city that isn’t digital, but more-so that it shows a part of the city that isn’t rendered legible through digital tools, yes?
Love this line/idea. Wonder if you could unpack in one additional line?:
The orientalist rendering of Chinese characters as illegible cyphers that appear throughout London constitutes a slippage between the digital and the industrial city.
Striking how much this quote applies to TBB & Sherlock:
“Neuromancer‘s global or cosmopolitan future depends on stereotypical descriptions of raced others who serve as ‘orienting points’ for readers and the protagonist”
Yet, the continued air of mystery that surrounds all things Chinese in TBB even after the identification of the cyphers speaks to orientalism as the real driving engine of the narrative
Or perhaps orientalism as a fundamental location of narrative suspense?
Yes, this conclusion doesn’t seem to fully reflect where the essay has gone, and better yet would be for it to open up some new questions or implications borne through the totality of the essay’s analysis. I’d love to see you take a second stab at this concluding paragraph, with an expansive view.
Like Louisa, I feel the argumentation and ‘agenda’ of the essay is not shown enough here. You are very specific in this paragraph, but perhaps a bit too much; it makes it difficult to pinpoint the main argument that should guide the reader through the essay.
Dear Anne and Melanie, I found this a particularly rich essay to read, it’s nicely written and touches upon some relevant aspects of the series and its original. Below I shall give a few comments in their respective paragraphs.
I feel that the explanation of John’s phone, which is described earlier at the start of the introduction, comes a bit late. Perhaps you can refer to the intro in a sentence or so? Perhaps it’s just me being inattentive for a moment, but I had to rethink what you were referring to because I only read it as a short example.
I feel the first part is too detailed on the ASDP/anxieties, when compared to how technology is analyzed in the second part (It makes me assume this was your division in writing as well?) What I like about this part is the close-reading of Holmes his methods as well as Sherlock’s. I feel this could be more included in the second part too so that the essay becomes nicely balanced. I also feel that these comparisons between the original and the adaptation (in terms of urbanisation/scientific methods etc) are at the heart of the essay, hence the comment.
Would it be helpful to move this part to the shorter, previous section on digital technology? I feel it could make a stronger point there since it is less about city life and more about technologies and how Sherlock deals with factual knowledge.
I think it might be useful here to actually point back toward the way Victorian Holmes changes into contemporary Sherlock in research methods. In our proposal, we talked about the way digital tools (and the near infinite excessive information they encompass) require new types of modes, such a search and filter. I think much the same can be said about what you encountered between researching earlier Sherlock Holmes fandom (even on the Web) and what we now encounter.
[ETA: I actually now put the proposal up, so you can hopefully see what i was trying to get at HERE]
I’m not sure about that 2/3 split. To me fan created vids on YouTube are a far cry from newspaper articles, and not that far removed from Redmond (in fact, given Redmond’s “professional” Sherlockian status, he seems closer to the producers/distributors in his affirmational fan approach (in opposition to the often transformative approaches of YouTube vids or LJ fanfic).
I love the narrative style of the essay and the personal discovery theme that pervades it, but I’d really like it to also clearly delineate at an early point its actual thesis. Hopefully, writing an abstract after the fact will be helpful in doing so, and this paragraph seems to establish the themes and all but cries out for your argumentative stand.
I think this is where your argument is most clearly articulated, though I’m not wholly convinced Louisa’s or Sean’s blog comments are necessarily as authoritative as you make them sound. On the other hand, they both give you what you try to connect: Louisa addresses the ready made fannish networks and infrastructures and Sean describes the text as eminently readable and transformable in various directions, so one gives the external and one the internal success.
Here we come back to the earlier issue I had with your list. I think what Geitelman actually references are actual structural and technological limits and protocols whereas your discussion below seems to focus on cultural limits and protocols. I think both are immensely important, but it’s also crucial to clarify that what you’re talking about it somewhat different from Geitelman’s point. [Louisa and I address both issues and their differences in our co-written essay Limit Play (2009).]
In other words, your distinction of content and protocol describes cultural norms and mores whereas Geitelman actually is talking TCP/IP.
You already read Matt’s essay, right? Here’s a great place to interconnect these essays which address similar issues from slightly different perspectives (after all, one of the reasons we are trying this experiment is that everyone can cite and reference everyone else and the collection makes a contentious yet connected whole!)
Just structurally I’d like you to already tell us what the second group of sites is. Also, would this section deserve a new subheading?
This is a nitpick, but I’m a bit uncomfortable making Duncan here and in the next paragraph the arbiter of what constitutes fannish behavior. I think any published definition (your own, ours, Matt’s, Cornel’s, Henry’s) would work better here for me.
I do wonder now whether the more recent fannishly adopted terminology of transformational vs affirmational fandom might be useful here. I’m not sure about the squeeing. That seems to be everywhere, doesn’t it (even if it doesn’t necessarily come as squee or \o/ 🙂 But the transformation, the particularly challenging reading practices of the fans we tend to like to study–I think that is well distinguished within these terms, and I find it fascinating the way behavior finds and follows site specificity.
You might also reference Coppa’s Short History of Media Fandom here (in Hellekson&Busse) about the cross fertilization of previously distinct communities.
Given the book’s audience I’m not sure the actual descriptions are necessary. I think it’s important that there are attempts in the communities to initiate newbies into the lingo and to maintain certain rules. In fact, sherlockbbc on LJ is notorious for its draconian rules and its highly judgmental moderators (see one fan’s posts on the com: http://saraht.dreamwidth.org/767923.html & http://saraht.dreamwidth.org/753025.html), which raises the question of how social protocol gets enforced and how terms/restrictions/etc travel. (I’m thinking here, for example, of the no Real People Fic prohibition that stood strong through the 90s yet was naively never understood when LOTR RPS generated its own community that didn’t know that there *was* a prohibition.)
I think I’d like to see both a bit more of a transition and maybe something a bit more concluding here? I think you beautifully sketch the myriad ways in which fannishness circulates in different forms and through different venues and how both Louisa and Sean are correct and yet even those two things together cannot explain why this fandom exploded and others didn’t. (In fact, many probably expected Richard Downey Jr and Jude Law to generate more impact given the exact same background, intertextuality, ready made slash and other communities). Coppa will address that issue some more, but to me that’s the ultimate question your investigation can’t answer (and which obviously no one can!)
that’s really what the entire paper is about, but as you say below, the narrative style requires gradual disclosure so I’m reluctant to put anything more in here.
sorry was trying to reply to both comments – not entirely won over by this method of peer reviewing I must admit! At any rate, replying to your second comment, yes will write abstract that will outline argument and if you like put in a couple of more sentences here.
okay, will take out Youtube.
I think if you look at the quotes from Gitelman she’s talking about both technological and social/cultural norms (e.g email etiquette). In fact the problem with Gitelman’s concept of protocols is that as I say she never provides one concise definition and it probably encompasses too much. that’s why in a relatively short essay I dealt with cultural protocols, but one could just as well deal with the technical protocols of these sites (well, that is if I had a clue what they were!) But send me your essay and I’ll have a think.
below you say that I should perhaps come up with a more authoritative definition of fandom, but as you say they give me what I need – I’m using them, particularly Duncan, as an heuristic device rather than as authoritative comment (and trying not to be unfair in doing so). Since from my perspective the esssay is more about method than fandom and since there’s not really space to develop the arguments about different sorts of fandoms, I simply pull that thread at the end and suggest it needs further thought.
will refer to Matt’s essay. I like the idea of heretical fidelity and will pick up on that.
will do. see above for explanation of why this would be difficult. I’d really have to rewrite the esssay.
yes, will try to work affirmational/transformational in. Had seen references to the distinction but didn’t know how widely it’s been adopted. any references you have? As for squeeing have to say that I don’t think the Amazonians really do squee. It’s a very different writing style which I didn’t have the space to talk about — more conventionally ‘literate’ if you will whereas much of the stuff on the newer sites is written like a text message.
will do — have an ecopy by any chance?
If you don’t mind, would like to leave the descriptions/definitions in. I’m planning to submit this piece to our national review of research activity. The people on that panel will be a very different audience who might need the explanations.
happy to try, but can you give me more of a steer about what you’d like?
Yes, that’s the problem with experiments…they’re not always how you’d hope for them to play out. We’ll see how much we can get contributors to crossread and comment, but I agree that this paragraph format doesn’t fully work for me either.
Nono, I’m not bothered by the YouTube, i’m just trying to figure out where 2/3 divides. Like LJ is clearly 2 but any given sherlock com there is 3 if that makes sense… I think you might be right in this distinction–I just wonder if the way you define it (Sherlock specific sites) is what really distinguishes Redmond’s site from sherlockbbc…
Oh, sorry. I thought i’d sent it to you last year. Will send now. If you read Gitelman that way, then would it be possible to maybe address that and just point out more clearly that you’re only dealing with the cultural aspects of her argument?
i am just so uncomfortable with using Duncan here, mostly because he has been rather negative and dismissive about that side of fandom (even your quote insinuates that to a degree). Would it make sense to just describing these as different forms of expression fannish behavior? as you say, Amazonians self-define as fans. The question then is how these different fannish expressions play out, right? (And I believe you on the nonsquee 🙂
Fanlore has the definition and links: http://fanlore.org/wiki/Affirmational_Fandom
will send along as well 🙂
Really, looking at it, it’s only the intro paragraph and the concluding one that I’d like you to expand a bit. Could you maybe just reference the quote so that it’s clear you’re talking about the subtitle? The could you spell out a bit more clearly how you are actually applying this quote (and the dichotomy) to research in terms of masculine mode of research vs feminine modes of intuition and what tends to get privileged in academic discourse.
Also, it might be good to add how that intuition approach influenced the way this essay ended up and the way it connects to the overall difficulties (or maybe rather, how it solved them?)
This is the other place where I think the ending could be expanded a bit. We’d like you to say just a bit more and connect your insights here to larger issues. Off the top of my head there are two possibilities (though feel free if you come up with something entirely different):
One would be to connect your insights and questions to the collection as a whole. In a way, I’d argue, the shifts in material have created a shift in approaches as well. Whereas Henry could write a book about all of fandom in the 90s, Karen and I decided to have multiple voices addressing multiple source texts and fannish expressions and even that wasn’t enough. Whereas your essay on Holmes fandom could be definitive to a degree, we now have an entire collection of different authors with different methodologies looking at different aspects of the fandom.
The other possibility that seems to make sense given the personal narrative within which your essay is framed is to look at how this essay and your insights may have changed you own approach and how this may indeed affect your next project, how you might work and think differently.
Given that this essay will appear in a book dedicated to Sherlock, could you condense these three sections and focus on what is relevant in terms of Doyle and Sherlock Holmes image and reception in terms of public media?
I’m somewhat uncomfortable with the generalizations at the end of this paragraph, especially considering such huge successes as Downton Abbey, for example. Also, just out of curiosity, how is Spooks affluent middle class oriented? More importantly, though, since you’re not focusing on production discourses here, I don’t think you need these claims for your argument.
Would it maybe be useful here to distinguish between how critics access and read this material and how fans do? Or are there any differences? Is the only thing dividing them who gets paid (or not) by whom? If all material is accessible online, it’s not even like the upfronts, where life presence guarantees access that random fangirl iheartedward247 may not have. Of course, there’s always the actual pre-screening, but even that can be interceded, as Moffat’s angry responses to the leaking of the DW season opener indicated. So how do we distinguish official critics from fan critics (or academics for that matter)? I think that is one of the driving questions of this essay and I don’t have any answers, but I’m really curious about it. Permanence was one thing you mentioned, but these days it’s almost easier to retrieve a static fan web page on archive.org than a framed, nested dynamic newspaper article (though, admittedly, print publications do have a permanence of sorts). Objectivity? Philosophically and theoretically all but destroyed if it ever was there to begin with, right? I think the most important one you’ve mentioned has been taste maker, but frankly, I enjoy and trust Matt Hills’ readings over on Antenna about the new season of DW much more than I would any newspaper or magazine reviewer…
So..maybe the question isn’t how the critics are different but whom they interpellate. Who reads and trusts official critics over their favorite fan blogger? How much is staked on the reputation of the individual? (Like, when I still used to care about film, it mattered that Pauline Kael or Roger Ebert were writing–it even mattered that it was The New Yorker or The Chicago Sun Times). But these days, I select my reviewers and critics from my blog roll and choose a track record of agreement. It’s closer to the often crazed, if you liked this book, you may enjoy… apps on many sites.
And I know this is not really what you deal with, and it may be beyond the scope of the essay, but it may also be something to consider.
I love this aspect, and I’d hoped you’d go a little further into the question of nationality, the idea of Great Britain, the way Sherlock Holmes features centrally (Lamerichs, for example, addresses how SH gets read in another country and cultural context as eminently British), and possibly even how the postcolonial 21st century England images a nostalgic recall to a grander time and the most British of heroes yet tries to translate him into the present with ambiguous success. The last section came closest to address these questions, but I wanted to see possibly a bit more of this…
Hi, agreed. After seeing what other people have been writing, and with some assumption that some of these points will be mentioned in the introductionI could condense these sections into one paragraph bringing out more what aspects of Sherlock Holmes is relevant for public media. Thanks for that. best
Yes, I not suggesting that the historical dramas have disappeared, but recently British TV drama has been very successful in other forms. I mentioned Spooks in terms of middle class as it has been referred to in this way by some critics, either in terms of its target audience or, mostly, in terms of its middle class content. I included this paragraph to try to tie Sherlock into a general trend towards a slightly more experimental form of drama that has been appearing – the move away from adaptations, often towards a more Americanised form of drama series, often a little slicker, based around 1 hour slot and often made in slightly longer runs that the BBC use to make, for example Merlin.
One could. For this work I was focusing specifically on the role of the professional critic, those working for the media, and how they engaged with the broadcasters PR and Sherlock, rather than the fan or viewer. It would become a much larger topic if I did that and would move me away from my interest in how the critics talked about the series – which I hoped might, alongside other chapters in this book, raise the comparison to how fans and viewers engaged in the discourse around the programme.
Yes, in some ways we are all critics, and with the web maybe the media power of the professional, those working for the media, is decreasing. Indeed many are now talking about the death of the critic and the rise of the public critic. However, I would still argue that many viewers still either directly rely on previews or read reviews written by critics, or engages with others that have read them. Most members of the public do not go on line to read the BBC’s website to find information about new programmes that are to be screened or to read reviews on line of programmes they have watched. Many viewers still read the TV guides, the TV previews and TV reviews – partly for information and partly for entertainment. They often know and like the style of the critic. These professional critics, employed by the newspapers, are also an important way by which wider discussions in the public, on line or not, are sometimes circulated back into the old media. They are a group that broadcasters are aware of and keen to engage with to get beneficial coverage for their programmes. That’s why there are still PR packs and not just websites providing information aimed at the public. Broadcasters are still trying to engage with what they perceive to be important gatekeepers or arbiters of taste. These are critics who work for the media, who often have a high profile, are read by millions and are often important in the public discourse that appears around a programme.
I mention permanence in terms of capturing a particular discourse that can be studied after then event. Obviously the web offers this, but there is still a debate to be had about how the web maps on to national communities and connected public discussions compared to the way a national newspaper might. Yes, you might enjoy and trust Matt Hills’s reading, but I would argue most of the public would tend to read about Sherlock in a newspapers or magazine.
Yes, asking a question about how viewers and fans use the work of critics and to what ends would be the next step. At this moment I limited my work to the discourse of the critics and its connection to the broadcaster’s attempts to shape such debates. Things become a lot more complicated as one asks how the public engages in such a discourse.
Yes, this was something I wanted to develop a little more. At least in terms of how the pre-image played on this and the way it was also taken up by reviews. I might see, depending on other comments, if I can add to this.
That’s hopefully one of the really useful results of this collective peer review–that we can reference one another’s essays (whether as support, supplement, or in disagreement) and create a collective whole together.
Also, while we’d expand and revise the intro, our proposal is up if you want to have a look at it. Feel free to comment 🙂
All of that makes sense–can you maybe address your in and exclusions here (pretty much with parts of your above comment 🙂 in text?
Yes, I really hope you do! Basu’s essay is the only one that directly addresses the postmodern (or as she argues *not* postmodern) aspects, and Coppa talks about postmodern feminism and harrington some about Victorian colonialism and terror, but the colonial/postcolonial in reception is the thing that I was really hoping your essay would address. I keep on thinking of Andrew Blake’s argument in The irresistible Rise of Harry Potter where he connects the nostalgia with a quasi-Victorian world and the contemporary British political disenchantment. I can’t help but think that there’s something weirdly similar going on in this bizarre merging of Victorian and pomo aesthetics and the retro seeming racism in TBB and…I’m not quite there yet, but I’d really like to brainstorm some more and push you a bit further in that direction, because there’s definitely something there (maybe even in connection to my seeming disagreement about British historical shows and their appeal above…)
Dear Paul Rixon, in general I really like your article which focuses more on the press and how it shapes the reception of a television series. As you point out, there is need of such theories. I found the article overall well-structured and clear. In terms of criticism, I would like to note though that your main point that such reviews also tell something about television and society today seems clouded by the constant highlighting of Sherlock as a modern adaptation. Though this is the case, and many reviews indeed elaborate upon this like you say, I wonder whether there might not be more you can distill from the reviews as cultural artifacts that are received in a certain way by Sherlock viewers. Reviews are important in a sense that they often determine whether or not a viewer will watch a show at all and can be the only product one reads of a show. They also frame the relevance of a series, something you depict well in the section before the conclusion. I wonder whether you could not make a stronger case out of these reviews and what they actually do, rather than very in-depth describing the content they exhibit, which is what you mostly do now. In general, you touch upon certain characterizing aspects of Sherlock that you could have distilled yourself, as a scholar, or as a fan, without having read these reviews.
Of course you want to make the point that reviews are crucial here, do something extra, operate in a certain influential way, and might shed a different light on media texts today. You consider these to be a valuable source that we can learn specific things from. Perhaps a theory of how interpretation and reception works can be of aid here, which is something I miss now. Here, cross-referencing to more academic theory early on can be helpful. I have noticed that you refer mostly to your own books in the beginning which is good but not enough theoretical ground for readers. Perhaps Bourdieu can be helpful as he distinguishes many levels of taste and critics as connoisseurs that influence how art is received. Stanley Fish and his following also come to mind that shed light on interpretive communities and how scholars also belong to these as critics. In short, I hope that you will develop your argument a bit further. In terms of style, I have little critique on your article, except that the many little headings are not something I would encourage. It makes the reading a bit awkward and eclectic and also assures that your structure goes from topic to topic, rather than tells a story. In the following paragraphs, I will give you some smaller comments. I am really fond of your approach and I am sure that it will be a delightful read in its final version!
‘often ignored by academics’ – I have read quite some articles that actually make a point of the role of critics/reviews in media studies. The most recent one, which I think you’ll like, because it also adds up to your theme a lot, was Gray, J. (2011). The Reviews are in. TV Critics and the (Pre)creation of Meaning, pp, 114. In: Flow TV: Television in the Age of Media Convergence.
Hmm, I’m a wee bit concerned with the bridge here about whether or not the promotional material that is published before the actual (press) screening heavily influences what kind of meaning critics create. I wonder if you could substantiate this through other literature or clear examples because now it all seems very speculative, in a way (I think you can make a claim, I mean, it probably works like teasers do for fans or so). Still, when I read the paragraph and see BBC tries to give a certain hip, modern image of Sherlock I wonder if that really influences what we get out of the text since it’s also Sherlock’s most apparent feature when you watch the series altogether. What I like though is BBC hammering on intertext and actors and whatnot which by itself shows that BBC tries to to shape the interpretation. Hmmm. Anyway, just some thoughts.
I get a bit annoyed by the many small paragraphs with many headers in the middle part. Maybe you can put some of them together because they actually speak of many similar things… The canon paragraph here feels rather late after we discussed the canon already in ‘wider cultural context’, ‘pre-image’ and whatnot. I like it that reviewers distill this but wonder if it – along with linkage to Sherlock holmes and contemporary twist could not be one bigger section that is arranged a bit differently.
There’s some good accounts on blockbusters en must-see tv in fan studies. Think of Sarah Gwenliann-Jones’ work. It could be great if you could make use of that to substantiate your argument a bit. Now it’s all very general. What actually constitutes good television and how do the critics frame this? If you could highlight that some more, you’re getting one step closer to that bigger point that I think you can/should make.
I find this section a very general account of viewership and fandom and slightly awkward, since you are dealing with critics who have this idea of an ideal viewer in their mind rather than with actual fan accounts. Perhaps this, along with the Must-See TV section and maybe the section after this one, could be one bigger section with a bigger point about what consitutes good TV and how critics think that fans will respond to that. It also reminds me of some discussions of cult tv that claim that cult texts can be triggered in advance and by using certain genres, references, irony, etc (Again, Gwennlian-Jones could be helpful here or maybe Matt Hills’ work?)
I highly enjoyed this paragraph since it focuses on not so obvious players in the field, shows some insights in broadcasting and the insecurities of TV as well.
Dear Paul! While I agree that it’s important to defend this methodology (surveying reviews and critical reception), you don’t make clear what this methodology has gotten you in the case of Sherlock in particular—though in fact I think your methodology has potentially gotten you something pretty great, which is this: that the mass media coverage of Sherlock by both quality and tabloid presses explicitly or implicitly understandsSherlock to be a contemporary BBC production that – in line with recent, internationally successful media properties such as The Office, Doctor Who, Torchwood, Life on Mars, Merlin, etc. (all of which were made or remade for the US market) – indicates the rise of the BBC/UK/London as a slick media content producer. In fact, I’d go further even say that from the base of your essay you could probably argue that the London that Sherlock is set in is itself an advertisement for the world of slick UK media productions, and other British media (TV critics especially) have a huge stake in that. But even if this is not what you see your essay as doing, I’d like to have some sense up front what you think the study of Sherlock has gained from the survey of these journalistic sources: a cultural consensus around—what? this beloved UK property (meaning Holmes)? the importance of the BBC and other big British media content producers/makers of intellectual property? Or a rallying around a British national cultural identity (built on the reworking of these “classic” British properties: Doctor Who, Merlin, Sherlock Holmes?)
Paragraphs 6 and 7 seem a bit at odds–or rather, the transition from “Sherlock Holmes’ international image” and his “very British” persona was a bit jarring. Maybe just a tiny clarification here.
Also, vis a vis the idea that Holmes is especially ingrained in the middle and upper classes–As you point out a few lines down, the original context (Strand Magazine) and quick transmedia-fication to popular theatre and film – suggest that H/W were mass media from the get go (and mass media was downmarket until five minutes ago, certainly to upper middle/upper classes). But both of these points do suggest that Holmes was up until Sherlock associated—positively or negatively – with the past (conservatively if you wished to go back to that version of a vibrant capitalist city ; or you might have a negative view on that past if in fact you want want to see shiny 2011 London as the new media capitalist city freed from its old industrial problems… (See also how this idea fits in with the idea of the BBC itself representing the newness of this new London and new Sherlock!)
“many might have felt there is little room for another period piece Sherlock Holmes series”–sure, though on the other hand: why stop now? Nothing content producers like better than a proven thing! (I mean, two Batman reboots and three Hulk movies??) 😀
This all to me seems to support an argument about the BBC’s own self promotion as a competitive content producer.
“pays homage” strikes me as a wrong note: I mean, it’s a straight-up adaptation, no? Modern like the New Who seems to me to be the salient point
” much this character and stories are adapted or changed for the modern era this is still Sherlock Holmes and, as such, comes with that baggage.” –you say Tomato, I saw Tomato. You say “baggage” but I have a hard time thinking that a capitalist industry thinks of it that way: that “baggage” is proven marketability, no? Holmes–like Harry Potter–has the potential to be a national economic engine and seems to me a blatant attempt for the BBC to “do it again” by revitalizing a classic British-identified property.
Actually, replying to myself, your essay makes me think a lot about Andrew Blake’s book on Harry Potter: The Irresistable Rise of Harry Potter – in which he argues that, among other things, that one of the thing the HP series does really well is to a) put an emphasis on a cycle of annual shopping and b) emphasize a kind of British entrepreneurship (e.g. Harry investing in the Weasley twins’ sweet shop) so that Rowling’s book then itself is a spectacular example of what it’s about: a New Britain fueled by the creative entrepreneurial industries. Sherlock seems to me to be so much doing the same thing and the journalistic sources you cite seem to me to be winking at that fact!
Great point: in fact, this makes me think that the obvious intertext here is “Life On Mars” where the pleasure is in seeing the contrast between two different modes/contexts of detective fiction. I never thought of this before but Sherlock owes as much to LoM as to the New Who.
Again, I think this is the essay’s really crucial point, and I’d love to see this gestured to right up front: the way in which journalists are slotting the new Sherlock into an array of British IP. I still think this essay is missing its nationalist economic argument–or rather, I think you’re actually giving evidence for it but not making it! What’s interesting in the journalism you’re citing to me is the way in which this represents the BBC and/or big media and/or London the new media capital of the world.
Hi! I’ve been reading along with great interest, and here felt impelled to comment that I think this is a fascinating topic — the discussion of who is the ‘real’ artist behind a medium so collaborative as that of television. When we look at the press on Sherlock (both the press pack ‘pre-image’ and the critical reviews) — it’s interesting that it’s writers talking about other writers — isolating a single form of creative responsibility that the reviewer also shares. I wonder if there’s a point to be teased out here about how the medium changes affect the continuation of this story. The concept of Conan Doyle as single author fractures intriguingly into the collaborative authorship of film and television, but we still kind of want to hang on to that single voice. — Balaka
Again, there’s an adaptation bit here, isn’t there? The limp moves about (I thought) because in the original stories, the placement of the wound changes from story to story, and this is an ‘explanation’ of the mistake?
This question about the ‘full series’ is also really fascinating. Is it subscribing to an idea of television that is more American influenced, as you mentioned earlier? With Merlin / Doctor Who et al, and the 13 -episode series? I’m interested in your conclusion from all this data?
In my essay, I argue that the program projects the illusion of forward-looking without actually doing so, but your points are well taken! I’d love to see a little more maybe about how this program was targeted both in Britain vs. America, and what this means for a British television identity. How does the BBC taking on a more internationalist focus (think of Torchwood coming to Starz, for instance, and the rising success of Doctor Who in America as well), as well as the show’s marketing and reception when it ran on PBS Masterpiece play in?
I really enjoyed reading your chapter!
Is it worth addressing, somewhere in this section, the series title change of name from last to first? How do you read this shift?
Yes, I like this point! The notion of Sherlock “emerging from the fog” manages to have it both ways. The phrasing positions Sherlock as moving forward, leaving the fog of Victoriana behind him, and still invokes the fog, and suggests that Sherlock is its product.
Re: the British specific context for quality TV discourse, with contextualizing histories of heritage programming and literary adaptations, it seems worth worth noting the (non-coincidental, I’d say!) intersection with US quality/serial TV turn toward mythos adaptation and/or period piece (Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire), as well as associations with other media forms (the notion of The Wire as novelistic or Mad Men as cinematic…) Perhaps this could be understood as a conversation between national/industrial contexts, one which goes both ways?
I’m fascinated by how this prestige versus quality distinction actually mirrors the same distinctions happening around US quality TV, with US quality TV producers invoking novelistic, cinematic, or game-like dimensions to distinguish their programming from “normal” TV programming. I’m thinking of Jason Mittell’s piece on The Wire in Third Person. (http://justtv.wordpress.com/2007/05/22/the-wire-and-the-serial-procedural-an-essay-in-progress/) Very interesting to think how national frameworks shape these perceptions of the possibilities and limitations of TV as a medium.
I would love to see you expand on how the character of Sherlock (as re-envisioned Holmes) reflects BBC’s specific status. Could you unpack this idea some/push it further?
Our essays seem to overlap on the topic of UK/US quality TV traditions and the focus on production and institutional factors.
Is it also possible that the authors of Sherlock and the Sherlock Holmes films are making connections between social and cultural context of 2010 and the original historical period of the Conan Doyle stories?
This habit of breaking with the narratives of the original stories and presenting ‘small moments’ in composite form is something that is characteristic of adaptations of Sherlock Holmes in various media, as described by Thomas Leitch in the essay ‘The Hero with a Hundred Faces’ in his book Film Adaptation and its Discontents (Baltimore, Maryland: John Hopkins University Press, 2007), pp. 207-235.
I’m interested in your argument here. Are you saying that medium-specificity matters less than factors such as production cultures and institutional ecologies? Or are you saying that medium-specificity needs to be broken down into variable elements like narrative codes and conventions, institutional set-ups, and production environments? Are you with Noel Carroll’s notion that there is a lack of any essential, ontological difference between film and television or do you think (as I do) that the industrial elements of each medium feed in to a more complex understanding of medium-specificity?
I would argue that the finished film is a lot less of an action movie than it could have been. Studio interventions and new writers introduced during production I think restrained a lot of director’s Ritchie’s excesses as an macho director of action so that there are much fewer of these types of sequences in the movie (and a lot more traditional Holmes/Watson banter!).
Given the connections between the film and science-fiction TV (as you demonstrate later in the essay) and its blatant plagiarising of the Russell T Davies-era Doctor Who, it’s entirely possible that ‘Robert’ is also a homage to the renowned Doctor Who writer and script editor Robert Holmes, known for using Sherlockian imagery in his serials. This would further strengthen your already wholly compelling argument that the film is driven by an address to science-fiction fandom.
A request cum plea: Could you please find a place somewhere in your discussion of Ben Syder’s ‘meek’ portrayal of Holmes to mention the unintentionally hilarious line ‘No, I’m fine with this scone, thank you’. It would amuse me greatly 🙂
The period/contemporary dichotomy in the star persona of Cumberbatch raises a very important point-one that I had missed making in my essay.
We overlap significantly here on the split historical focus of the marketing campaign for the series, although we use different examples. I use the interstitial continuity announcements for the BBC One airing.
I think ‘quality’ is also format-specific. Quality claims in both thr UK and US seem to gravitate around particular narrative forms (anthology, serial drama) and negate others (episodic series, continuing drama). I think our analyses compliment each other here, as I discuss how the series’ use of various formats signals its rootedness in quality TV traditions.
This is a really nice introduction to TV period drama and literary adaptation, thanks.
This paragraph suggests to me that we are claiming a lot of the same things but with slightly different foci and arguments. While you draw conclusions about the institutional/industrial significance of the period/contemporary dichotomy in Sherlock I’m relating it more to the series’ rootedness in television drama and its history. So, in these cases, I don’t think we’re overlapping in content as we’re exploring the topic from different angles.
It might be useful to distinguish between character-driven franchise adaptations (like Sherlock, James Bond, Batman) and plot-driven (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones), especially as they shape viewer expectations – we would be disappointed if the adaptations of Tolkein or Rowling made huge changes in story, but are fine with Sherlock or Bond adaptations devising their own plots.
FYI – if you want to cite my Wire piece, there’s a online site with the published version at http://www.electronicbookreview.com/thread/firstperson/serial
This essay raises a lot of strong points about the three versions, both their textual and contextual formations. I’m not sure the dual focus on the films and TV series comes together in the end though – I wanted more of a sense of what is gained by studying the three adaptations in comparison. Specifically I wanted more of a sense of how each uses character to engage certain medium, genre, production, and branding norms, and how those citations are taken up by viewers, critics, future adapters, etc. Is there any interplay between the three versions & their creators/fans? Ultimately, I think there needs to be a bit more connecting the three beyond comparison to make the essay fulfill its goals.
I thoroughly enjoyed this essay, and I think it raises a number of significant questions about the role that industrial contexts play in these adaptations. Most of the comments below are about connections I feel could be exploited to better effect, but I agree with Jason’s main point above. Either there needs to be a stronger connection made between the TV series/straight-to-DVD film/Hollywood blockbuster, or a more explicit acknowledgement of the role that medium specificity plays in these formulations of character and audiences’ response to them.
You set up the parameters of your chapter with wonderful clarity here, and I really like the focus on how industrial contexts shape the character. Considering the different viewing contexts/mediums in play here, I think you could make a broader statement about adaptation and medium specificity (or how those conversations become less significant in the discussion of a transmediated character like Sherlock, who is routinely adapted across platforms).
This point re: no text offering a complete Holmes is great, and reading this passage I was reminded of much of the literature on the core tenets of transmedia storytelling (multiple entry points to the story/character, each equally legitimate as an entry point, “Holmes” as an entity that is more than the sum of his adapted parts, etc.). You don’t need to mention this here, but it’s interesting to note these resonances, and Holmes as a transmedia personality, despite the fact that these 3 adaptations weren’t constructed as a coordinated transmedia narrative. I could direct you to some potential sources if you were interested on expanding on this connection.
I first found myself wondering about your views on medium specificity around paragraph 4-5 and, as for tsteward, they resurfaced again here for me. Arguably, transmedia storytelling and franchising is the great unifier here, where institutional policy and character development meet (and, while they celebrate the innate properties of every medium they pass through, they can allow a movie character to have a more “televisual” development over time). Your example with Picard here is interesting, but I think it might be useful to preface your discussion of the various Sherlocks below with some conversation of Sherlock as a transmedia character (or character driven franchises, as Jason notes above).
I really love the discussion of RDJ’s star persona in the wake of Iron Man here, and how it colors a reading of his Sherlock.
It might be useful to make the connection between this characterization of Holmes as “disconnected,” or as a liminal figure (as you do here), and your early remarks regarding the inevitable social/cultural disconnection that occurs with adaptations. Is it possible that the television series is acknowledging this or commenting on this, however unconsciously?
As with your discussion of RDJ, I love your framing of Cumberbatch.
Per the comments above, the essay builds nicely to this point.
I’m with Louisa, I’d like to see you unpack some of this. In particular, you draw some really wonderful connections between the BBC’s industrial identity/need to reflect and resurrect British culture, and the need to consider adaptations within cultural context, and I think this could be more of a critical through line.
Fascinating, well-considered project, especially the institutional reading of BBC in relation to Sherlock.
Very comprehensive abstract, but in abstract and intro, I’d like to see you spell out how this approach to Sherlock provides insight beyond Sherlock (for questions of adaptation, the television medium, etc.) Can you push one step further here to make explicit the broader significance?
Not that you necessarily have to address this, but it’s very interesting to think of the gendered dimension of this connection between Holmes nad TV as shared domesticity. Seems like a potentially rich offshoot of your analysis here.
If TV tends to render Sherlock Holmes young, worth acknowledging Granada version as exception to this rule, especially since (at least prior to Sherlock) Jeremy Brett embodied the Sherlock Holmes most associated with TV?
Love your closing point regarding the impact of production culture on the television text of Sherlock, and I wonder if you could state it even more forcefully. It seems to me that the relationship between the serial and the episodic in Sherlock is not just a bleeding of contemporary production culture into the text, but a more systemic and structural interrelationship between the two.
Re: the following:
However, the references to a romance between the couple is played almost entirely for comic effect as farcical misunderstandings, suggesting an ironic detachment from ‘eroticisation’ of the characters that subverts the conventions of fan fiction
I think that the stance the series takes on Sherlock and John’s slash subtext depends very much on the interpretation of the viewer and how he or she feels she’s being hailed by the text. Many viewers do not read the interchanges as *only* humor, or they do not necessarily see the humor as foreclosing respectful if playful engagement with the characters’ sexualities. The running joke of John and Sherlock being mistaken for lovers seems to purposefully allow multiple interpretations and perhaps suggests an ambivalence to queer/slash interpretations, rather than simply a detachment?
Re: TV fan authorship being constrained by the original source material, perhaps it would be worth emphasizing here that these dynamics of source textual constraint are actually pleasurable and productive, and define many of the impulses of fan creativity? Sherlockians especially find great value in asserting the predominance of canon as necessary and vital constraint. (And this could be a fruitful point of connection with another essay in the volume–Ashley Polasek’s essay on Sherlock‘s relationship to “The Grand Game.”)
Re: The Blind Banker discussion at the end of this paragraph, is it really that TBB has little relation to ACD’s canon, and transplants John and Sherlock into a generic detective programme. Could it perhaps be that the elements of the Sherlock Holmes mythos that TBB draws on aren’t as resonant with the project of Sherlock or with current Sherlockians’ preferences?
Really interesting idea – do you mean young audiences as in teenage (which the Young Sherlock would speak to) or ‘youth’ as in 16-35? The latter would tie nicely into the adaptations as ‘quality’ TV in Jane Feuer’s original terms (in MTM Quality Television). These argument might help give a further grounding to your argument ‘to attract young audiences with their spending and cultural power’
This is interesting – of course the other genre of TV that flexi-narrative is linked to is soaps (in fact that’s where Nelson talks about it), way at the other end of the cultural status spectrum to Abbott and McGovern. There’s maybe a bigger point about the value of flexi-narrative structures (though perhaps not entirely relevant for this essay!)
FN 4 also raises something I was going to say about a later paragraph (the last one in this section). In that paragraph you discuss TBB being a slightly different approach and more of the characters transplanted into a detective fiction – of course that was the one written by Steve Thompson rather than Moffat or Gatiss
(See comment on paragraph 13)
As you said in the comment on my chapter, I talk about the status of period/literary drama so it could be worth linking to it – that way you can save yourself some space and not have to go over it again
I think both, potentially! However, you’re right in pointing out there is too much slippage between the two ‘youth’ categories in my analysis. That connection will help enormously. Really important comment there, thank you!
Actually think it’s a very important point. A dichotomy such as that reinforces what I’m arguing about the fluidity in cultural value of the format of Sherlock.
Yes I think they are very much linked too. Perhaps it would be a good way of bringing that footnote back into the text. This is very helpful stuff, gosh, thank you.
Yes it’s such a good run-down too it would be enormously helpful to link it in to your essay here.
Absolutely! I was holding back for fear of being too general but I definitely think my questions apply to other literary adaptations on TV and larger issues of TV production, narrative form and genre.
Might be a difficult point to integrate but definitely ripe for future discussion. Makes me think of C. Brunsdon’s piece for Screen on British Crime TV drama and her account of how Morse was made less misogynistic for TV (to the point where he becomes feminist cult). Holmes in the stories (as I read him) already identifies with and idealises women far more than men-making him an obvious candidate for adaptation on a medium frequently categorised as feminised.
I will mention this-though I think Watson as played by David Burke in the first instance is part of the same pursuit of youthful vigour in the Holmes adaptations as I detail here.
Will work on this. I also think the combination of serial and episodic storytelling is done very self-consciously, as it is in Moffat’s Doctor Who.
I agree that overall Sherlock is ambivalent towards the queer/slash interpretations of the Holmes/Watson relationship, wanting to acknowledge it and have fun with it yet also slightly sceptical of it. I will refine and re-phrase this section with this in mind-also I will better distinguish my interpretation from the multitude of possible readings of these references to homosexual relationships.
I think this is an important distinction-and I see the issue of canon comes up in the CB Harvey essay too! I will especially look at linking the TV authors’ play with the Holmes canon to fan activities in the same realm.
This is a tricky one. Reading back, I can see more value judgement than evidence from me on TBB. However, I still genuinely think that in terms of style, script and genre this is procedural drama with the two famous characters bolted on. I think I need more evidence for this, and maybe to acknowledge my own value judgement a bit more (as one of those Sherlockians you mention!). I think Steve Thompson’s background as a BBC drama formula-schooled writer makes a difference, and that it was deliberately generic to blend in with other BBC police shows.
I agree with Louisa above that there are broader issues that you can/should point towards here, but that said I think this is a really clear and compelling argument you’re making here about why Sherlock offers a unique site to investigate these questions of media specificity (even as you nod to the transmedia nature of the franchise).
I find this, coupled with your remarks on how the television adaptations tend to skew younger (both representationally and in terms of intended demographic), really fascinating, especially given the fact that Elizabeth brought up “quality tv” above.
Is there anything to be said about the (possibly strategic) placement/airing of one “generic” procedural episode you identify here? Certainly, the pilot needed to lure new audiences and assuage Sherlockians, and The Great Game is invested in setting up Moriarty as the series’ central villian, and accordingly both harbor deep intertextual ties to the literary canon.
Considering you move on to scheduling in the next paragraph, you may want to flesh out if you find the scheduling of the lone “generic” episode telling/significant in some way. Is this possibly an attempt to broaden the audience? Is there a potential concern for burning through elements of the literary canon too quickly?
I think the turn of phase you use here, “historical flexibility,” is spot on.
I see the point you’re making here re: Sherlock’s aesthetic and its break from there heritage production values, but I think it might be a bit of an overstatement to call it “extremely challenging.” Stylized, certainly, but in a mode that has, as you note, become fairly homogenized/digestible for contemporary procedurals.
To clarify- while it certainly challenges the heritage tradition, it isn’t inherently challenging (so, in other words, no issue taken here with the final sentence).
as I i argue in my own essay, Holmes has instant access to data, but not necessarily to knowledge. He has to have the knowledge of the internet which permits him to find that data and he then has to have the knowledge to distinguish between valid and invalid data. In other words, he can consult digitally but he has to know where to consult and how to interpret the results of the consultation. He has to consult hierarchies of reliability upon the data he gathers.
This relates to the issue of the definition of fan/fandom which runs implicitly throughout my essay and which I briefly address at the end. Lyndsey Faye’s essay also picks up on this, and like me she speaks as an affiliated Sherlockian with personal knowledge. This is outside the purview of your essay, Matt, but I wonder whether affiliated sherlockians are unique in their disavowal of the fan label; would the janeites be similarly upset at being labelled fans? I do think that we need to rethink the whole concept of the fan and refine our terminology.
I really like this argument, and it also works nicely with Basu’s essay, which effectively calls out this “man of now” problem.
I wonder if it’d be useful to foreground the fact a bit more that we are indeed following an artistic conceit of necessary plotting here.
I wonder if it might be worth spelling out that Sherlockians are all but infamous for their excessive data gathering and completist (modernist) endeavor to know it all. Pearson certainly references that and Polasek describes the great game in detail.
I think you need to question this term “fanboy” in two directions, though. One is Moffat’s (purposeful?) ignorance of the self-terminology of SH fans and the other is, of course, gender. Given the repeated use of fanBOY, it’s clear that his imagined audience is not congruent with the actual one and, given recent comments (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-13353367) I sincerely wonder how much fan service we’re actually getting and how much is fan service to this imaginary non-afficionado fanBOY…
Could you maybe comment on the addict here? I feel like there’s a conflicted relation to the fan in the same way that there’s a conflicted relation to the Canon…
Not sure this would go too far afield, but I wonder if this would fit with affirmational vs transformational fandom (http://fanlore.org/wiki/Affirmational_Fandom). In a way, what Moffat&Gatiss are doing is closer to “our” version, isn’t it? AUs and changing characters’ gender at will and…
Again, I think they’re walking a fine lime where they’re themselves fighting with and against Canon as they are fighting the fans most who are JUST LIKE THEM! (Or, rather, they’re fighting both types of fans–the affirmational ones because that’s what they are meant to be and the transformational ones because that’s how they–need to–see themselves)
It really is a perpetual game of narcissism of small differences!
It may be worth mentioning here how little transmedia embedded Sherlock actually is both for a text clear to spawn fan interest and for a text in which online knowledge gathering and intertextuality are celebrated.
This is great! It’s the first convincing (to me) argument I’ve read of ‘Sherlock’ as post-modern, where knowledge is a great, unordered ocean, rather than the world of ‘fixed value’.
This seems to be right in line with the general fannish (in the sense of creating fan work) idea that characters are these ‘real’ figures which the original authors are only one mouthpiece for, and who might thus get it ‘wrong’, implying that there’s an objective reality to get right. Holmes fandom is particularly and peculiarly complicit in this, given the common conceit of talking about Holmes as if he was real. I love the way you identify how Moffat and Gatiss simultaneously embrace and reject this concept — classic having their cake and eating it too.
I wonder how this plays into marketing… could we have an edition of the Conan Doyle stories that featured Cumberbatch and Freeman on the cover? Probably not, right?
If you’re looking for a parallel to this decentered transmedia franchise, The Wizard of Oz is an apt comparison. I heard a very good presentation by Frank Kelleter on this topic & Oz, although I don’t believe it’s published yet.
Might it be worth mentioning that Sherlock portrays a mode of “forensic fandom” that is devoid of affective relationship to its object? In other words, Sherlock uses sites like fan forums as sources of knowledge but not sites of engagement – more forensic than fan, even though there’s shared methodology and commitment to participation.
Matt – I really like this piece, and appreciate how it blends textual & paratextual engagement. My main comment is that it would be useful to distinguish between fannish methods of engagement and fannish affect – it seems to me that Sherlock represents the former without the latter, demonstrating the work of collective intelligence but applied with different motivations. In short, the character of Sherlock does not seem to be fannish in his affect, and the text seems to allow a fannish behavior to be disengaged from such emotions. Then this detachment seems to resonate with Moffatt & Gatiss’s own ambivalent relationship to Sherlockians. Does that make sense?
Wonderful, insightful analysis. I love reading this as a critique of Doyle.
This section offers an interesting insight into the impossibility of knowing what may and may not become relevant. However, though Conan Doyle certainly makes the argument you attribute to him regarding useful and useless information, you may want to be careful paralleling that with a contrast between trivial information and lettered information – Holmes, after all, was often to be found reading the agony columns in the newspaper because he saw the value in gossip.
I agree with both of the above comments. I would add that the term may be a age demographic issue as well. The Sherlockians that eschew the term “fan” tend to be those who are older and long-established in the community. My experience at various Sherlock Holmes society meetings leads me to believe that the younger Sherlockians, even those who are very serious afficianados, accept and utilize the label of “fan”. As the target demographic of the show is a younger audience, and in particular these younger Sherlockians, it may be that Moffatt’s term presents less tension that it would appear.
This ties in very well with the argument I make in my chapter regarding how “clearing away” rival images and approaching the characters anew undermines traditional Sherlock Holmes fan discourse. I like your suggestion that doing so operates as a method to maintain the heirarchy between producers and fans.
I really love this idea of “heretical fidelity,” both as a way of understanding how Moffatt & Gatiss position their authorial presence, and as a way of considering fans’ relationship to the text and canon, and I thoroughly enjoyed the essay as a whole. Like Jason, my major note is concerned with making a clearer distinction, in my case between which modes of “fannish knowing” or engagement are being foregrounded here. While I think you argue effectively that Sherlock breaks down hierarchies of knowledge (and stresses the importance of fannish knowledge), I feel the fact that it may be reinforcing hierarchical models of (un)acceptable modes of fan engagement remains relatively unexplored. This point is elaborated on in the notes below.
I really like this application of Levy, though what appears to be “activated” here (at least in terms of your discussion of cult series and Sherlock foregrounding knowledge collecting/investigation) is weighing decipherment and speculation more heavily than elaboration. It prompted me to wonder how this emphasis on knowledge might privilege more affirmational or analytic modes of fan engagement.
Like the other commenters, I really love this paragraph and the argument you’re making here.
Given your earlier invocation of Levy and your characterization of Sherlock’s “wiki world,” this is begging for some mention of collective intelligence, both in terms of the networks of information in the television series, and within fandom.
Hierarchies of knowledge may melt into air, but it would appear that hierarchies of fandom do not. By stressing paratextual gossip on message boards, documentation/blogging, and general decoding/analysis of data as vital forms of fannish engagement, what’s lost here?
So, perhaps my concerns can be written off by the fact that this franchise and its fans, by the very nature of the narrative they’re drawn to, tend to stress more affirmational/analytic modes of engagement. This is more an issue for me when you get to M&G’s invocation of the Sherlock fanboys below…
Nina and Roberta get at this in their comments below, but here’s where many of the questions popped up for me re: just how far Sherlock’s endorsement of fandom goes, and where it hits some roadblocks. Once M&G are framed as fanboy auteurs, it’s difficult to divorce their preferred modes of engagement as fanboys with their preferred modes of engagement as authors. In both cases, more historically “masculine,” affirmational modes tend to be stressed here. As you note, it’s a delicate balance to maintain some sense of authorial autonomy while still claiming their fan status. It makes sense that this same delicate balance would apply to the way that canon is treated within the fandom.
Agreed, this building nicely on the prior paragraph’s acknowledgement that this desegregation is, in large part, a marketing strategy.
Hadn’t seen this note from Nina until now, but yes, this is in part what I’m getting at.
Per my comment earlier in the essay, I feel like collective intelligence could be broached earlier to inform and enhance the rest of your analysis, especially your discussion of heretical fidelity.
i think that you’re right that Sherlock inspires fanfic partly because of its updating. It’s a lot easier to write a contemporary than an historical fanfic. It’s probably also easier to write a future fanfic (as with Star Trek), at least for those fully conversant with the fictional world. However, the SherlockBBC site has “Britpickers,” Brits who will beta-read non-Brit’s stories looking for inaccuracies of cultural context. This raises an interesting question — but not one you can or should necessarily address here – of the relationship between the writing of fanfic and the writer’s cultural context.
Overall, good scope and nice clear abstract, but one key point could be clarified. Re: this sentence:
However, it negatively impacts the reception of adaptations; conceiving the characters as real people situates adaptation as an act of fictionalization that will inevitably misrepresent the “truth.”
You could clarify your argument both by specifying what “it” is and by resituating the “negatively.” Isn’t it more that fans invested in “The Game” view adaptations negatively? No doubt there is some pleasure involved in judging adaptations lacking (or perhaps not, but I’m betting this differs from fan to fan depending on one’s perspective and investments…) But in any case, as it reads now, it sounds like you’re saying it is a bad thing that fans invoke “The Game” in their appreciation of adaptations, when I think what you actually mean is that “The Game” leads them to be suspicious and judgmental of the very act of adaptation (and the texts that result…)
Re: the last sentence in this paragraph:
Despite these complexities, fidelity is often the first and last gauge of quality to a fan.
I’d like to see you expand/qualify this emphasis on fidelity a bit, considering why this is true and for what kind of fan. This adherence to or investment in fidelity is not equally important for all fans.
Regarding the final product being like a documentary–wouldn’t it be more like a reenactment?
Hmm. While it is true that fan fiction isn’t restricted to an imitative style, it’s not a free for all either. What about the rule of fan fiction, and the expectations of specific fanfic communities? Fanfic communities may not have the same sets of restrictive rules as are in place for pastiche, but there are many spoken and unspoken rules, some which differ from community to community, and others that reach across communities.
I really think you’re on to something significant with this distinction between pastiche and fan fiction and the resulting impact of Sherlock on the forms of Sherlock Holmes fan writings, but I wonder if you could frame this aspect more as an intersection or collision of different sets of rules and different value systems.
These stats at fanfic.net are so striking. I think you could even further emphasize how significant they are given that Sherlock only aired in England a year ago, and everywhere else even more recently, and only has had three episodes.
However, aren’t these states partially explained by the notion that fans of Sherlock will be more likely to be online, given medium and generation? Also I think it would be worth addressing the generational demographics of fanfic.net specifically.
I really like the argument that Sherlock’s modern setting offers fans a route into making the narratives relevant to their personal experiences. (Though there’s a counteragument to be made on that point, as fans have a rich history of writing themselves into foreign and past settings.)
Re: the last sentence into this paragraph, which seems to get at the notion of the “Mary Sue,” I’m not sure that many fans would celebrate this aspect of Sherlock, as MarySues are taboo in many fanfic writing communities. Indeed, this may be a difference of interface/community norms, where fanfic.net serves as a site for authors to share their MarySues, where on other sites like Dreamwidth and Livejournal, the practice of “inserting yourself wholesale” into your narrative would be frowned upon.
So, qualify? But this might help you to paint a picture of diverse communities, even within fanfic writers, with diverse value systems intersecting.
I’m torn, because I love the flourish of the last sentence, but I’m not sure what Sherlock has won, exactly?
I think this rather oversimplifies the relationship of Sherlockians to the canon. While the actual writing might be a stable case, instability and variation with regard to the visual has been there from the beginning. The most iconic of the illustrators might be Sidney Paget, who illustrated the stories in the Strand magazines, but it was actually Conan Doyle’s father who provided the illustration for the first appearance of Holmes, A Study in Scarlett. And it was Frederick Dorr Steele who illustrated the American versions. So even from the beginning there’s been no stability of visual descriptions. And of course there have been hundreds of further visualisations through stage plays, films, illustrations, etc. Therefore there could never ben an exact on screen rendering, but only references to various interpretations. So for example, the Jeremy Brett version was praised by fans because he often took poses familiar from the Paget illustrations. But looking like the paget illustrations is not the sine qua non of a ‘successful adaption.’ Fidelity is a very complex notion in terms of Sherlockian response and I think saying that ‘fans tend to unconsciously treat’ is a more than a bit condescending.
Again, I think this oversimplifies. Sherlockians (or at least some of us) have been happy to accept Holmes as vampire fighter or even Holmes in the future. The limits of tolerance are actually rather elastic, varying as always from fan to fan. It would be wise to avoid general and unsubstantiated assertions such as the one that fan discourse always snaps back to the immutable foundation of the canon. Perhaps some fans do this and others don’t. It would be good to provide some evidence and not to conceive of the older Sherlockian community as a totalising monolith.
But other adaptations also function without reference to Doyle — indeed the vast majority of them so Sherlock is doing nothing new here. And as I point out in my own essay, Doyle featured heavily in the text’s paratexts. In fact, Sherlock does shift authorship assigning it to Watson and his blog. And a lot of older Sherlockians loved Sherlock precisely because of to use Matt Hill’s phrase its heretical fidelity. so one could indeed play the Game with it or at least identify the allusions to the canon.
Sorry, should have continued above comment but this interface is confusing. At any rate, I really think it’s a mistake to claim that viewers are obliged to enage with Sherlock as primary text. AS I show in my own essay and Matt shows in his, many of the paratexts specifically connected Sherlock to Doyle and the Canon. Some viewers may have engaged with it as a primary text if they were previously unfamiliar with the canon but others definitely engaged with it as an adaption. It’s the differences between these reception stances which is so interesting. Again, it’s really necessary to distinguish amongst different kinds of viewers and to provide evidence as to their responses.
Another generalisation about Sherlockian response. Many of my Sherlockian friends really enjoy the Rathbone versions and admire his performance. in fact until Brett came along, I would hazard that many would have said that Rathbone’s performance was in many ways closest to the canonical holmes despite the updating. AT the same time of course, most deplore Nigel Bruce’s watson for not being like the canonical watson. This shows that Sherlockians are capable of judging different aspects of the text with regard to fidelity; blanke generalisations simply don’t work.
This well-written essay calls attention to a number of really interesting aspects of fan practice and adaptation – as someone who knows little about Sherlock fan practice, I learned a lot about various aspects of the fandom. I agree with Roberta that you paint Sherlockians with too broad of a brush, as it often reads as a more unified and homogenous community than any fan group I’ve ever heard of.
Two major issues seem lacking in the essay as it now stands. First, there’s little connection between the first half (on “The Grand Game” and other adaptations) and the second (on fanfic & Sherlock). The link between these two sections needs to be clarified – as is, it reads too much like two parallel explorations without a larger argument.
The second issue is that despite the discussion of the fans’ engagement in a “grand game,” there is little sense of the playfulness involved in such fan practice. It reads more like these fans are policing canonical boundaries with a seriousness of purpose and mission that avoids any sense of play – can this be true? Ludic engagement is a core aspect of many fandoms, and given the rhetoric of “game” here, it seems unlikely that the practices are as un-playful as they are portrayed here. So I’d recommend considering the ludic elements of these practices more fully, and contextualizing them within other playful modes of fandom that might nuance the debates described in the essay.
I agree with many of Jason’s comments above. At a number of points, you do make a point of acknowledging the complexity of these issues, and your pointedly limited characterization of “Sherlockians,” but reiterating this (or making it more of an overt through line) would help ward against some of Roberta’s concerns, which I shared. Regarding Jason’s note on the playfulness of fandom, I actually found the characterization of those playing the “game,” and the seriousness with which they play it, really fascinating, but at times your language slips dangerously close to pathologizing these fans. At points, this seemed less about policing canon, and more about a fundamental inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Perhaps I’m hypersensative to those issues, but considering that you’re making a number of generalized claims about the fandom, you might want to take a pass over this to consider your characterization of Sherlock fans (and how they might be extrapolated to fans generally). Funnily enough, while Jason’s mind went to play, mine went to rules. Keeping with the “game” rhetoric, and considering your characterization of Sherlockians as deeply invested in upholding the rules of the “game,” it poses a number of interesting questions. For examples, see comments on 24 and 38. Likewise, in paragraph 40, it struck me that based on your analysis Sherlock may have “won” because it’s loosened the rules on how fans can play “the game,” or at least reframed them to allow more people to play (communally, textually, etc.).
Like Jason, I found this wonderfully informative, and my more specific notes are below.
I agree with Louisa that you need to qualify this point on fidelity as a marker of fandom. This might be the case with Sherlockians as you’re defining/characterizing them, but generally speaking fans and literature on fans has offered and abundance of evidence to the contrary. Another example that comes to mind is the Harmonians (or Harry/Hermione shippers) within Harry Potter fandom, as that group of fans alternately disregards/denies the canon, and turns to it for evidence to back up the supposed relationship between the characters. So, as Louisa notes, this is a complex issue, and there should be some acknowledgement of that here, and throughout.
I can’t speak with the same authority as Roberta on this point, but share some of her concerns, and I see your point here re: fans of “The Game” and how they approach adaptations warily. This is one of the paragraphs that I mention in my overall comments on the essay, regarding language slipping uncomfortably close to old fan pathologies re: the slippage between fantasy and reality. I’m fairly certain this wasn’t your intent, so maybe rework this section to be a bit more attentive to how you’re framing Sherlockians.
I know that, early in this essay, you acknowledge the fact that you’re using the term “Sherlockians” to describe one particular segment of the fandom, but one way that you might combat some of Roberta’s concerns (and, by extension, accusations of essentialism from others within the fandom who might read this) would be to to come up with a new term to describe this segment of the fandom and use that throughout the essay. This would also help make a demarcation between those who have long been playing “the game,” and the new initiates to Sherlock fandom through the television series
The comment about the series being a “purist’s dream” is really striking, and would appear to complicate some of your prior claims regarding Sherlockians loving the series because it breaks the rules. I think you could do more with this quote in terms of tying things back to your prior comments on the importance of fidelity. Do Sherlockians love the new series because it recontextualizes the rules rather than breaks them?
Considering how much of your discussion of Sherlockians and “The Game” hinges on fidelity to the canon, I think you blow through this discussion of slash and the presence of homoerotic subtext on the television series a bit too quickly. As Louisa notes below, the case you make about the contemporary setting allowing for (or encouraging) these new readings is strong, but I think many the fidelity argument could be nuanced here in interesting ways. Is this a case in which slash, rather than subverting the text, is simply carrying on the tradition of The Game? This plays into more contemporary arguments that frame slash as pulling out latent textual elements, rather than resisting the text.
in my own essay i’ve adopted the term ‘older sherlockians’ although to indicate the difference although this isn’t very precise. But it’s certainly necessary to make these distinctions. Overall, please do resist the pathologising of the older sherlockians. As Jason suggests, the game is played very much tongue in cheek. In fact that’s one of the fundamental ‘rules’ — to appear serious while actually being funny. I speak as one who once ‘proved’ that Holmes was having an affair with his client in the The Man with the Twisted Lip by calculating the speed at which horses travel and at which Holmes consumed his tobacco.
Good scope here in your abstract, but I wonder if there’s a slightly smoother way in? I’m also not sure how you’re using “prolific” here. Overall I think your abstract could be more direct if you avoided the use of passive voice throughout. But I love your overall thesis, and the final sentence in your abstract makes your point very clearly!
Is this gaze-widening really a matter of luck? I think you could phrase this (in the last sentence of this paragraph) more strongly, as the wider scope of Sherlock’s concern suggests a key redesign in the character and his relationship to his storyworld/our contemporary moment.
Re: the following sentence:
This self-categorized “high-functioning sociopath” has been born into a harsher world than the canonical Holmes, so it seems fitting that Sherlock should in turn be harsher himself.
Harsher in what sense, from whose perspective, and according to what value set? This notion that the world is harsher seems a bit too simple and needs qualifying.
Sherlock’s ability to change his approach signifies that survival in the post-modern world requires an adaptability that the Victorian Holmes sometimes lacks.
This is a tricky thing to argue without bringing in examples from ACD. Can you make this argument about adaptability being key to 2011 Sherlock without making broad statements about original Holmes? Alternatively, you could back up your canon assertion, but to do so could prove a bit tangential.
Re: the concluding sentence in this paragraph:
Sherlock may be the apparent weaker of the two of them, brought down by human failing in his concern for John, but he is also clearly the better man.
Qualify what you mean by “better” man here; better according to who/when/what value systems?
Re: the opening sentence/your way in to discussing fandom, I’m not sure you need to justify the validity of looking at fan works in this way, especially in the context of this book. But more crucially, is it really a matter of “best” means to analyze a work’s impact? More like one route to a particular kind of insight. Qualify.
You make a convincing argument about why Moriarty might not resonate to viewers because of his lack of sympathetic-status and his representation of prior, now outdated value system. That said, I do think you need to qualify this argument somewhat as there is a (smaller, albeit) subset of stories that focus on Moriarty, either pairing him with one of the other characters or entangling him in John and Sherlock’s entanglement. Your argument might be more solid when thinking about how stories that focus on John humanizing Sherlock and Sherlock inspiring John do not have room for a more sympathetic or compelling Moriarty, but instead use Moriarty as a foil to more fully develop their vision of John and Sherlock as synthesized science/faith.
Interesting argument! You might eliminate “the Victorian Age” since Doyle’s time extends beyond it.
“Turn of the nineteenth century” could be clearer in your opening. Also, you might make more explicit here Doyle’s New Imperialist stance.
Perhaps Holmes’s faults magnify our sense of his genius, even if they work against the perception of him as a simple heroic figure? Sometimes, Holmes steps outside the law in a way that is ethically problematic, though still satisfying in terms of narrative.
I agree, and, while, the characterization is certainly different in the new series, I’m not sure I agree that the new Sherlock is “colder,” “more unsociable and egotistical” than Doyle’s Holmes, who can be quite cold and brutally egotistical, too. Perhaps you can support your comparison more here and articulate more about your reading of Holmes’s morality in the stories. I think that Doyle’s Holmes also had significant flaws (“alternating between cocaine and ambition”) and that historical period of the stories was quite “dark” in a way that’s comparable to our own but perhaps I’m taking your argument too generally.
Yes, I think that there are several places in this essay where you set up a strong contrast between Doyle’s Holmes and Sherlock that relys on a generalization about Doyle’s Holmes that is difficult to sustain. It might be more productive to look at specific examples when you contrast the two versions. Your argument succeeds without these generalizations, and it’s richer where you examine them without forcing them into opposition.
I like this reading of Moriarty, though I think you need to develop the characterization and perhaps interrogate the terminology a little more here. What does it mean that Moriarty represents faith (i.e., Moriarty’s omniscient qualities make him resemble God, but is that the same as faith?) as well as scientific rationality? Also, not all Victorians were unable to reconcile evolution and religion, so you may want to temper your characterization of the period to focus more on the undoubted controversy.
This is a rich, interesting project overall. Consider and define the terms you are using a bit more, since “science” and in particular “faith” have multiple meanings and connotations here. Also, you sometimes set the Victorian period and the contemporary setting of the show into reductive oppositions that are hard to sustain. Targeted contrasts or even comparisons that are more sensitive to the complexity of these texts and easier to support might work better.
A couple of (very minor) style notes here- I got hung up on the word “identifiable” here (“noted” maybe? “high-profile”? “respected”?), it’s a bit too vague/nondescript. Second, I would break the “In this chapter I will explore…” sentence into two, perhaps at “the way such media discussions.”
Agreed that the discourse in the popular press is key, and I’m happy to see this contribution to the anthology. One note here, on the sentence that begins “It is part of the public(ally?) mediated debate…”: Are you referring to official press/promotional materials here in your discussion of how the program is framed for the viewer and debates are guided? Or are you referring to how the critical discourse in the popular press performs this function? It’s unclear here.
Given your description of critics as “public arbiters of taste,” and your invocation of Bourdieu here, perhaps this paragraph needs to be fleshed out a bit to discuss theories of taste and the “certain values” you point to here in more detail.
hi, in light of some of the changes I’m undertaking in relation to the chatper I will have to rewrite this abstract. As I do so I will take into account your comments. best
I’m referring here to my focus being on a specific part of the public debate about television, that of the work of television critics. This is a discourse which broadcasters, to varying degrees, also play a role which needs to be taken account of. I will see if I can slightly rejig this to make it clearer.
Hi, I’m slightly altering this section which should bring out this discussion a little more. However, I don’t want to go too much down this line as it will take me away from the focus of the chapter. Point taken though.
July 7, 2011 at 5:32 am
See in context
July 7, 2011 at 5:28 am
July 7, 2011 at 5:18 am
July 5, 2011 at 5:15 pm
July 4, 2011 at 11:32 am
July 4, 2011 at 11:28 am
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July 2, 2011 at 10:01 pm