Is fan fiction a new phenomenon?

The internet has seen the rise of a new literary genre: fan fiction. Often written by women, fan fiction pieces take characters from stories central to popular culture – Star Trek, Harry Potter, etc. – and tell their adventures outside of the novel – exploring alternative points of views, telling the story of minor characters, in short, building a universe around the central story.

Is it new? Certainly not. It is as old as the beginning of Western literature. Homer wrote the Illiad and the Odyssey. Well,a person compiled a version of myths that were circulating, orally, around, about the Trojan war, and the events that followed. The two texts that came back to us, and had the greatest success, were these two; but there were others, and in particular, a series of texts called ‘nostoi’, relating the return home of all the Greek characters involved in the Trojan war. Fan fiction for Illiad characters. Most of these nostoi have been lost, but they were told and retold, changed, rewritten, at the time. Like fan fiction is.

Later, in the middle ages, similar literature existed around the lives of the saints, and the Arthurian legend. There was a core set of characters and themes, that defined the genre; then story tellers elaborated, mixing episodes, changing points of views.

What is new, probably, is that the story comes first, and a universe emerges. There is much to say on the relationship between fan fiction and these oral literature. Any thoughts?

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