Sherlock "Content" Onscreen: Digital Holmes and the Fannish Imagination

Matthew Hills

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This article contrasts two scholarly approaches that have been adopted in relation to the character of Sherlock Holmes. First, Holmes has been studied in different cultural-historical moments via the framing assumption that he can be reconfigured within changing contexts (e.g., Thatcherism, postfeminism, or postmodernism). Second, Holmes has been theorized “as if” he is a real figure (Saler). This playful style of reading has persisted relatively unchanged from the early days of Sherlockian fandom, constituting a transhistorical mode of interpretation. Rather than treating these approaches as an irresolvable binary—historical moment versus transhistorical mode—it is argued that they have started to hybridize, becoming articulated through contemporary “demediated” (Booth) versions of Holmes. This “digital Holmes” is a trans-medial figure who can move seamlessly across media platforms. Such an articulation renders the digital Holmes very much of his media-technological moment, but at the same time this transmedia mode shares a sense of Holmes as transcending specific representations and media, becoming “as if” real and thus resonating with the fannish imagination. In today's media marketplace, film, TV, and literature are collapsing together as digitized “content” where audiences display “medium agnosticism” (Newman). Sherlock Holmes, as a figure incessantly adapted within screen culture, hence becomes media “content” to be repurposed for assorted (Web 2.0) platforms. While more closely approximating to the “Grand Game” of fans, this transcendent, digital Holmes calls for a tempering of sociohistorical textual analyses, with a greater focus being needed on continuities in reader/audience reception.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-78
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Popular Film and Television
Early online date11 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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