An archive of their own


- Katy DeCoste

Maya Wei Yan Linsley.

When you ask graduating Honours English student and Loran Scholar Maya Wei Yan Linsley about their work, they might tell you, “I took being a nerd a little too seriously.”

You could call research the driving force behind Linsley’s English degree. They were drawn to UVic by the opportunities for undergraduate research. As an Honours student, their thesis, Life After Canon, is the natural result of their lifelong fascination with and involvement in fandom.

Linsley grew up in Ontario with a love of all things literary—a passion for words that led them to the world of transformative fan works. From reading fan-written stories about their favourite characters (and even writing some of their own), they wanted to understand fandom’s transformative and literary capacities.  

Being a fangirl is something I’ve never grown out of and never will.

—Maya Wei Yan Linsley

When an Honours English course on literary criticism introduced them to the field of fan studies, they decided to dive deep into fan culture. Focusing on long-form fan-written work, Linsley used Harry Potter fanfiction as a case study, concluding that fanfiction is a form of literary interpretation.

Through fanfiction, Linsley argues, communities take texts and make them their own. “In Harry Potter fanfiction, a lot of fanfiction writes against the source material. Once it gets big enough, fandom becomes its own thing. The fandom context is much more important than the source material context.”

Beyond their Honours thesis, supported by a JCURA award, Linsley’s natural curiosity and passion for words has led them to a wide range of research opportunities both in and outside the classroom. In the inaugural Humanities Scholars program cohort, research was central to Linsley’s academic life from their first semester at UVic, eventually leading to a capstone project on our attachments to fictional characters presented through interviews and photographic profiles. They’ve also served as a research assistant on The Map of Early Modern London and Crafting Communities—two projects that expand traditional humanities research through digital tools and public engagement.

“When I look back on all my research projects that were seemingly unrelated, I can realize there was a common thread the whole time,” they say of the many successful projects that have made up their degree.

Linsley’s research lights them up—when they talk about the questions that drove their study, they can’t help but grin. It’s this delight in their work and a genuine, contagious excitement about the successes of others that make Linsley a natural leader. For the past year, they have served as the president of the English Students’ Association. As Managing Editor for The Albatross English Undergraduate Journal, they laid the groundwork for their peers to share their research.

And somehow, on top of it all, they found time to dive deep into creative pursuits: writing on everything from queer rights to BookTok for The Martlet, participating in the UVic Novelists’ Society, and publishing their short fiction and poetry in literary journals.

When we were finally able to be back on campus, there was this huge outpour and desire for community involvement in the English Students’ Association. Doing volunteer leadership work, you can really see the impact, which is important to me. We all have that desire for human connection.

—Maya Wei Yan Linsley

Though their time as an undergraduate student is coming to an end, Linsley sees this as just the beginning of their academic journey. In Fall 2024, they’ll return to UVic to begin a Master’s in English, supported by a Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

“I’m excited to continue with fan studies, taking more of an archival direction. I want to understand the Archive of Our Own [a popular website for fan work] as a fan space,” says Linsley, inspired by the chance to dive deep into what they call “unlikely archives” through a Peter and Ana Lowens University of Victoria Libraries Special Collections Student Fellowship. They’re looking forward to teaching, sharing their passion for literature and media with new students—continuing to build the community on campus that they’ve been cultivating for the past four years.

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In this story

Keywords: convocation, student life

People: Maya Wei Yan Linsley

Publication: The Ring

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