Academics: beware of loving what you write about. Fandom can tempt intellectuals to take uncharacteristic risks with their primary sources. Even Stanley Fish, who as the author of Is There a Text In This Class? knows better than anyone how important the division of insider and outsider is for keeping amateurs at bay. In 1993, Fish-the-fan, enamoured of the American television series The Fugitive, joined the faithful at a convention in Hollywood to rerun, adore and discuss the episodes, to listen to actors and directors of the programme talk about their experience. There's probably an internally understood hierarchy of TV series obsessives, but I don't know where Fugitive-heads come in relation to Trekkies, Python freaks or Dynasty divas. On the other hand, and at the same time, Fish-the-intellectual wanted to write a book about The Fugitive as it 'celebrated and anatomised the ethic of mid-20th-century liberalism', and, without doing a Christopher Ricks, who unnecessarily upgraded Bob Dylan's songs to Great Poetry rather than the more-than-adequate great lyrics that they are, also wanted to claim that there was enough serious and educated thought behind the creation of the series to merit his academic attention. It is central to his essay that the people who conceived, pitched and wrote The Fugitive were not simply writing popular fiction in a winning formula but, in setting up the drama series and conceiving each episode, had the conscious intention to explore the same ideas as Fish does in writing about it.
LRB 17 March 2011 | PDF Download