Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Lynée Lewis Gaillet - Chair

Second Advisor

Baotong Gu

Third Advisor

Mary Hocks


Individuals who consider themselves both scholars and fans represent not only a subculture of fandom but also a subculture of academia. These liminal figures seem suspicious to many of their colleagues, yet they are particularly positioned not only to be conduits to engaged learning for students but also to transform the academy by chipping away at the stereotypes that support the symbolic walls of the Ivory Tower. Because they are growing in number and gaining influence in academia, the scholar-fans of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Buffy) and other texts by creator Joss Whedon are one focus of this dissertation. Though Buffy academics or Whedon scholars are not the only ones of their kind (e.g., academic- fan communities have cropped up around The Simpsons, The Matrix Trilogy, and the Harry Potter franchise), they have produced more literature and are more organized than any other academic-fan community. I approach all of my subjects—fandom, academia, fan-scholars, and scholar-fans—from a multidisciplinary perspective, employing various methodologies, including autoethnography and narrative inquiry. Taking several viewpoints and using mixed methods best allows me to begin identifying and articulating a rhetoric of scholar-fandom. Ultimately, I claim that Whedon academic-fans employ a discourse marked by intimacy, community, reciprocity, and transformation. In other words, the rhetoric of Whedon scholar-fandom promotes an epistemology—a way of knowing—that in Parker J. Palmer’s paradigm is personal, communal, reciprocal, and transformational.