And then what do I do with my "serious work"? I read things people were writing before flying whales were even on literature's imaginative horizon. (At least to my knowledge! If you or someone you know has encountered a flying whale in the eighteenth century, please direct me!) I read works by women, and I find myself drawn to works written specifically by those women to whom the traditional English canon tends to deny a voice, but my major subjects of analysis have themselves been rather canonical thus far -- I am somehow the white girl who got into grad school with a writing sample on Jane Austen -- and while I know this will shift as I read more under the direction of some awesome professors (male and female) who understand that the eighteenth century is a time when "literature" as a category is only just coming into existence, allowing for a great deal of space in the literary imagination that gets restricted as things like canonization and genre solidification begin to happen, I do occasionally wish that it was easier to connect the two halves of my life to each other.
But the thing is, they are connected. Intimately. Even when (especially when) I don't see it. Prime example of this being that I'm currently in a course on eighteenth century oriental tales which has got me reading lots of stories by and about women, and also stories with magic! That elusive combination which, before this semester, I would not have thought constituted a portion of the canon that was available for my analysis, or that I could speak about as a way of gaining any kind of scholarly authority.
And I realized as I submitted the paper proposal for this class that without fandom-related conversations about the importance of representing women who are friends with other women, I would never have come to this paper topic. I am essentially writing a paper about how the collapse of society in one particularly violent early-ish gothic novel could have been averted if it wasn't in the interest of men and masculine organizations of power to pit women against each other, or if women realized that their animosity against each other only existed because routed through masculinist assumptions of women's social roles and decided to counteract this by being friends with each other anyway.
Seriously, I keep looking at my paper and thinking about fandom and smiling, because the wonderful female commentators of fandom have taught me just as much as the wonderful female writers of the eighteenth century. Ladies who are friends with other ladies and do not judge them for their way of being a lady are the happiest best ladies. That is all.