Web of Words: Poetry, Fandom and Globality

This study explores questions of media change, negotiation of literary value and postcolonial hybridity through a study of The Wondering Minstrels, a largely South-Asian community on the Web dedicated to the celebration of English poetry. I aim to demonstrate how an online community like Minstrels can unsettle hierarchies such as those between writer and reader, high art and fandom, and between metropole and margin, even as it often seems rooted in this logic. While print-culture and literary values are often conflated, this new kind of platform celebrates poetry using the interactive and participatory possibilities of the Web. It garbles protocols of literary appreciation by discussing canonical poetry in an idiosyncratic, personal manner. As a group dominated by South-Asian techno-managerial workers, this is also an account of ways in which globalization and postcoloniality intersect and the new networked society complicates the center-periphery model of cultural traffic. In choosing to informally engage with English poetry as bookmarks for their own lives and remaking the rules of engagement, the Wondering Minstrels is an act of cultural translation, another way of telling the literary legacy of colonialism. In addition to analyzing the conversation on the website, I draw on selected theoretical work relating to new media, middlebrow culture, reception theory, postcolonial studies and globalization.

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