Project description

Fan mail to Danish film stars in the 1910s. Exploring the agency and practices of early film fans

The project investigates the emergence of film fans in the 1910s as well as the establishment and formation of early film fan practices. Instead of relying on third-party accounts about film fans, as has been done in research so far, the investigation makes use of two extensive collections of fan mail to the Danish actors Olaf Fønss and Clara Wieth from the 1910s in the archives of the Danish Film Institute. This globally unique source material, supplemented by fan mail to Betty Nansen, Asta Nielsen, Valdemar Psilander and Carlo Wieth, totalling up to about 2,900 letters, not only makes it possible to reconstruct the agency and practices of early film fans and their sociological, cultural, gender and age diversity. At the same time, the difference to the media representation of ›the‹ fan and his/her fandom provides insights into the functionalization of the discourse on fans and fandom in the respective cultural, social and media-historical context.

Three subprojects will analyze (1) who the letter writers were as social and cultural agents, (2) how the writing of fan letters was constituted as a practice in the 1910s and how it changed, which discursive strategies and discourse regulations the letters exhibit, what kind of fan practices and self-constructions of ›fan‹ and ›fandom‹ are recognizable in the letters and how these relate to the contemporaneous and later mass media constructions, (3) what the fan perspective can contribute theoretically and specifically to the historiography of a New Cinema History and to a reception history with a globalized outlook.

Fanbrief 1

(DFI, Clara Pontoppidan collection, no. 1)