“So archontic literature and women’s writing, at least in the English language, have been linked for at least four hundred years, and from the first, the act of women entering the archives of male-authored texts and adding their own entries to those archives has generated conflict. Wroth, who was Sidney’s niece, received sharp criticism for writing the Urania from fellow noble Sir Edward Denny, who lambasted her for producing a romance, a type of work unseemly for a woman – the only appropriate genres for women writers being, according to Denny, translations of scripture and other devotional material. Wroth responded to Denny by parodying a poem that Denny had written to censure her. She adopted his rhyme scheme, including the exact rhyming words, and defended herself archly, demonstrating that a female writer could freely enter and add to any male-authored archive she wished, and that such archontic activity could be a successful technique for critiquing the style or message of the male writer’s writing.”
Derecho, A. (2006). Archontic literature: A definition, a history, and several theories of fan fiction. Fan fiction and fan communities in the age of the internet, 61-78.
In this paper, Derecho is interested in fanfiction as an art form rather than simply a social phenomenon, which was the predominant approach in fan studies at the time. Theorising how fanfiction works, she coins the term “archontic literature”. This is partly an attempt to move away from value-laden words such as “derivative” or “appropriative”. “Archontic” refers to the idea of an archive, which is ever-expanding, and where the addition of any new work alters the entire archive. Derecho also uses “originary” (rather than “original” or “source”) for a work which may serve as inspiration for fanfiction. Conceptualising fanfiction in this way allows for a less hierarchical view of the relationship between fanfiction and the works it is based on. Derecho argues that fanfiction is part of a wider genre of archontic literature – works based and building on other existing works. She traces a history of archontic writing, showing how it has often been used as a tool of social and cultural critique by minority and marginalised groups. She gives a number of examples including women’s writing from the 17th century, and more recently postcolonial and ethnic American literature such as Alice Randall’s The Wind Done Gone.
Hélène Cixous, from Poetry in painting: writings on contemporary arts and aesthetics