CFP: Exploring Imaginary Worlds: Audiences, Fan Cultures and Geographies of the Imagination


Editors: William Proctor (Bournemouth University) & Richard McCulloch (Regent’s University London)

Foreword by Mark J.P. Wolf

Writing for the New York Times, A.O. Scott states that ‘today there are hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps millions of people whose grasp of the history, politics and mythological traditions of entirely imaginative places could surely qualify them for an advanced degree’ (2002).

However, as Mark J.P. Wolf remarks, such ‘imaginary worlds, which rank among the most elaborate mediated entities, have been largely overlooked in Media Studies despite a history spanning three millennia’ (2012: 2). Wolf’s Building Imaginary Worlds and Michael Saler’s As If (2012) are certainly illustrative of a turning point in the study of world-building across media platforms, but research to date has tended to restrict itself to understanding how ‘geographies of the imagination’ (Saler, 2012: 4) function at the level of text. The relationship between these worlds and those who engage with them – the knowledgeable people to whom Scott refers – has yet to be explored in significant detail.

Accordingly, this special section of Participations: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies invites contributions that focus on the various ways in which audiences explore, interpret and respond to imaginary worlds.

What are the most significant features of these fictional spaces and places for the world-explorers themselves? How do audiences navigate and negotiate concepts of canon and continuity, and to what extent these impact on engagement and enjoyment? Do audiences ‘rummage for micro-data,’ as Bordwell puts it, and, if so, through what methods and means is this achieved? How do audiences feel about reboots, retcons, and other narratives that may contradict, disregard or alter pre-established continuities?

We are interested in articles that engage with audiences as opposed to speculative accounts or textual analyses – research that maps specific communities and their rich relationships with world-building. Materials in circulation, as in web forums and the like, can be utilized, as can audience research conducted by the researcher. If building an argument about how audiences might respond, researchers should consider how to test and verify their claims. We would also welcome proposals for methodological articles that address the practical and/or ethical challenges raised by this kind of research.

Subjects may vary considerably – this list is not exhaustive and the editors welcome proposals that fit within the widest possible purview of this project. Similarly, this should not indicate any single medium but any medium (or combination of media) that engages with story-worlds and world-building: examples include prose fiction, comic books, TV, film, theme parks, and any other that meets the requirements of this special section.

Examples of imaginary worlds may include (but are certainly not limited to):

Lego; Coronation Street; Fifty Shades of Grey; Star Wars; Star Trek; Eastenders; Game of Thrones; Tolkien; Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Comic Book Multiverses/Universes; China Mieville; the Alien universe; The Simpsons; Twin Peaks; Jurassic Park; Discworld; the Marvel (Cinematic) Universe; Grey’s Anatomy; Ghostbusters.

The deadline for abstracts of 300 words is 26th June 2015, and notifications of acceptance will be sent out the week commencing 6th July.

First drafts will be due by November 1st 2015, with publication scheduled for May 2016. Following peer-review, final draft deadline will be April 1st 2016. Email abstracts to both editors: William Proctor (, and Richard McCulloch (>)


One Response to “CFP: Exploring Imaginary Worlds: Audiences, Fan Cultures and Geographies of the Imagination”

  1. nordicnoirblog Says:

    Reblogged this on Nordic Noir.

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