The general question addressed is whether fan culture can--as oral-derived epic at its best--be the means of real political and ethical innovation. The participative nature of both fan culture and oral tradition invites this parallel.
One way to the answer could be through what I have proposed to call “Epic Work”. In my previous research, I have shown that the greatest epics, contrary to what is traditionally said of them in a kind of retrospective illusion, were intellectual tools which invented completely new solutions to the political crisis of their time (Goyet, 2006, 2008). Their means for so doing is “epic work”: these epics produce meaning in their very structure; narrative parallels, duplications and contradictions all lead to the emergence of unheard-of political possibilities.
My point here will be that fan culture might very well be the place in which epic work and its political-ethical innovation could emerge in contemporary society. The paper will insist on the features common to oral-derived epic and fan culture: common mastery of the specific language of the imaginary world, by audience and performers/producers alike; constant expansion of the narrative world allowing quasi-infinite variations; and freedom from prejudices in a world made for pure entertainment...
The touch stone of epic work, however, is Bakhtinian polyphony: to let new conceptions emerge, it is necessary that contradictions and contradictory truths can coexist and have equal “voices” (Bakhtin, 1984) in the fictional world. The question left, then, is whether fan culture can be polyphonic and so permit new solutions to gradually appear.