Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

Williams, Bronwyn T.

Author's Keywords

Literacy; Gender; Identity; Class; Popular culture; Pedagogy


Television programs--Social aspects; Television viewers--Social aspects; Modern family (Television program); Community (Television program)


This dissertation examines two contemporary television series (Modern Family and Community) and fan communities dedicated to those series. It then discusses a project developed within an upper-division English course at the University of Louisville, in which students created, reflected upon, and analyzed their own television show fan communities throughout the course. The first chapter reviews recent literature about literacy, identity, fandom, and popular culture, as well as describes the methods utilized within this dissertation project. Analyzing these television series and fans' and critics' responses to them, this dissertation argues that online communities provide a ripe space for community-building, as well as offer television show fans an opportunity to both weigh in on and potentially influence the production of contemporary television series. Finally, the dissertation makes a pedagogical turn, offering one practical application of the concepts explored throughout the earlier chapters in chapter four. As stated above, the introductory chapter reviews current scholarship on literacy, identity, fandom, and popular culture. This chapter also describes the methodology applied to the project. Chapter two opens with an analysis of representations of gender and literacy on the popular series Modern Family. The second half of this chapter discusses two groups' attempts to effect change in the series' production. Chapter three opens with an analysis of the television series Community, focusing on its treatment of the intersecting relationships among literacy, social class, and fandom within the series. The second half of this chapter describes series showrunner Dan Harmon's use of social media to interact with fans of the series, as well as the interactions among members of the Dan Harmon Sucks fan forum. Chapter four describes a pedagogical application of the ideas explored throughout the earlier chapters, focusing on three television show fan communities developed within a 300-level English course at the University of Louisville. Finally, the conclusion brings together the concepts explored through the three body chapters and offers future directions for this project.