This essay examines two contrasting cases of readers engaging with violent texts: student requests for trigger warnings to alert them to potentially troubling content in course materials, and widely popular fanfiction writing and reading in which fans create new stories within fictional worlds they love, sometimes adding depictions of physical, emotional, or sexual violence. Violent material is alternately resisted or is sought out and even created. Examining these contrasting stances reveals a conception of fiction in which violent content is central for its capacity to produce powerful, personal effects in readers. With a measure of control over their engagement with and response to texts they read, readers can use depictions of violence to enable them to externalize, manipulate, and resolve their own potentially overwhelming emotional states. This outcome is obscured by the academic privileging of reading at a critical distance, and it demonstrates a vital role for the personal in theorizing fiction reading and pedagogy.

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