‘Inside Higher Education’ Notes Trends in Twilight Scholarship: Lovable Quacks or Sneaky Smugglers

Last week’s issue of Inside Higher Education features a very interesting article about the scholarly attention being paid to Twilight. There is considerable mention of Twilight and History and comments from editor Nancy Reagin and contributor Janice Liedl.  It’s a well-written article, though, sadly, no mention of Spotlight and its excellent analysis of the Saga’s worth in critical studies . (Someone please post a comment to that effect. It might look weird coming from me). It’s also a much better article than this one from a local paper in which sentences I never spoke were inserted into my mouth, my name and the book’s title are wrong, and I’m called “co-author” rather than “contributor,” an important distinction.

Still, it is intriguing to notice the way Twilight scholarship is treated here. Though both these articles at least purport to be favorable in their tone, they indicate the two “safe” ways of viewing Twilight studies:

1) “Oh-so-charming” academic hobby followed by college professors who have some free time between semesters and want to write something that somebody will actually want to read (though we shouldn’t take it seriously enough to bother paying much attention to the author’s name or actual words) or 2) Secret weapon of said professors who are subversively trying to sneak  “real” disciplines like history and philosophy past the students by wrapping them in a Twilight-flavored chocolate coating.

The trend either seems to be to treat Twilight scholars like lovable quacks or sneaky education smugglers. These views, of course, are not limited to Twilight scholarship, as we’ve seen them applied liberally to work on Harry Potter, Tolkien, and pretty much anything else that people might enjoy reading and which has a lucrative film franchise.  They are, at least, nicer than the view that any scholar  who works on a popular culture topic is just a leech hoping to cash in on fame and fortune.

So why is it so hard for scholars of any popular culture phenomenon to be viewed as serious, thoughtful readers who see value in a text in spite of (and perhaps contributing to) its popularity?  I don’t really mind being viewed as lovable but daft or super clever and sly, but I’m very interested in the codification of the views. It is nice to see Inside Higher Ed’s interest and positive view, and I’m going to be following the comments on the article (though someone pretentious enough to call him/herself “Voltaire” certainly is harsh, and I’m sure would never consider actually reading Twilight or any scholarship on the subject). Of course, I’d much rather hear what you guys think.

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