Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Reading" Literature Creatively

I have encouraged my students to read the literary works that are the focus of their study in new ways -- especially through various digital mediations. This post is meant to give them some ideas along those lines from my prior students.

But a word first about reading in general. Reading has always been a creative act, not merely an experience in decoding symbols. As phenomenologists and literacy specialists insist, meaning is created through a complex process of actively interpreting signs by supplying a whole matrix of personal experience to complete the "psycholinguistic guessing game" that is reading.

Our digital culture ups the ante with reading, since we are less and less likely to experience a work of literature merely as a printed book. Books today are not what they once were -- even when read in paper format -- because they are embedded within digitally conditioned literacy practices. Our reasons and methods for reading are evolving as we become more and more immersed in a ubiquitous, networked, information-rich, media-dense medium that thrives on transforming and remixing the familiar in novel ways.

I made the comment in class this week that digital mediations of literature are interpretive lenses the same way that traditional literary theories are. Just as one can do a feminist reading, or a Marxist reading of a text, one can do a reading of a canonical text through various media (hypertext, audio, video, software, social media, etc.) that end up blurring the lines between reading and research, or texts and performances, or primary texts and derivative works. And as with the rainbow of literary theories available, any digital mediation of a text is bound to highlight some aspects and conceal others, but can contribute to the conversation that those studying texts have always valued.

I wanted to showcase some possibilities for critical engagement of texts. Many of my prior students have explored these avenues, so here are a few to sample. Some are creations of their own; others, creations they have discovered. Those that are not digital mediations directly are brought into the medium through documenting those experiences and publishing those accounts online:

Varieties of Creative Engagement With Texts

  • Installation Art
    Sarah Bown used The Taming of the Shrew as a way of creating and interpreting an experiment she did in installation art along the Provo River. Did the text get lost, or found, in this effort to "tame" nature artistically?
  • Fanfiction
    Joanna Barker created a literary imitation, a short story, based upon Taming of the Shrew and posted this onto (In a previous post, she explained how she explored and found some 1,700 spinoff stories from Shakespeare available there, including a pirate-themed, gender-reversed version of Hamlet, "Hamletta."
  • Digital Culture Performance
    Lindsay Brock found and critiqued this video of a version of the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet in which students used Skype and Facebook to update Shakespeare's story while still retaining traditional costuming and language.

No comments:

Post a Comment