(Re)creational Writing: Tumblr Rewrites Shakespeare

Texts: Blogs dedicated to Shakespeare (or that frequently write around/rewrite Shakespeare) in various ways (text, video, fan fiction, tags, captioned gifsets, art…). I’m interested in looking at rewritten Shakespearean texts, but also at how “Shakespeare” as a cultural icon is rewritten on the site. My title is coming from a comment Baron makes about how the Internet has led to a surge in recreational reading and writing, and I thought there was a pun there to make especially suited for an essay involving Shakespeare.

Question/Problem: At the most basic level, I’m asking: how is Shakespeare’s work (and “Shakespeare”) rewritten on Tumblr? In doing so, I’m looking not only at content – how do Tumblr users put pressure on Shakespeare in various ways (in terms of gender, sexuality, race, etc.) – but also at methodology – how do they do this? Tumblr has its own brand of literary criticism, and its own brand of creative fiction, that enable unique readings and rewritings of Shakespeare. Also, Tumblr’s interface allows for easy multimodal composition – some of the most interesting commentaries on Shakespeare (especially film adaptations in this case) are gifsets captioned in Comic Sans employing the “badness” in writing that Michael has posted about.

Format: Tumblr! Where I can interact directly with the source.

Model Texts: Tumblr pages aren’t necessarily the most visually appealing or intuitively navigable, and so I will be playing around a bit with how I want material organized. The blog will likely take one of two forms – vertical infinite scrolling or the other one here that I haven’t yet come up with a label for: http://loveyourchaos.tumblr.com/ and http://monk3y.tumblr.com/.


Things I’m wondering about right now surround the blog format. Tumblrs are, like most blogs, set up in reverse chronology (unless I play around with the other form). I’m trying to think of ways that I can organize my posts so that I create a coherent structure. I’m also playing around with the idea of organizing my material so that the blog can be read either way – one which leads to some sort of “answer” and one that opens up to a lot of questions. I don’t know if I will be able to pull that off, though.

My other question is around the writing process itself. Blog posts aren’t really meant to be revised as we think of revising in a Word document. Also, my composing process would be public. Kiley and I were chatting about this, and she suggested having essentially a “beta” digital essay, where all the work is done, and then revising as I see fit for a final product. I’m wondering what other’s thoughts are on that as well as I am still questioning what I want to do. Tumblr users are an especially responsive bunch, and so I am still somewhat invested in having that public, relatively immediate interaction as a significant part of the digital essay.

4 thoughts on “(Re)creational Writing: Tumblr Rewrites Shakespeare”

  1. Caitlin,

    This looks like a fun project that will allow you to connect your interests in Tumblr and Shakespeare. I have questions/thoughts about both:

    1) I’m eager to get a sense of the sort of materials you’ll be looking at. Can you provide some links to adaptations/rewrites/whatevers that have caught your interest?

    2) Since a Tumblr is an open-ended and interactive format, I wonder how you will know when your piece is done, complete? (I’d argue, in connection with this, that if you’re thinking of your entire Tumblr as the “essay,” that it seems appropriate to revisit, revise, reorder the various posts that are “parts” of that whole.)

    I look forward to seeing how you develop this!


    1. Joe,

      Thanks for the feedback. I’m still gathering the various posts I have “liked” (I have about 1000 posts I’ve liked on my personal tumblr – so I’m going to have to do a bit of searching through them). But here are a few short ones I like:

      A Shakespeare/Mean Girls remix: http://meanshakespeare.tumblr.com/post/66689131055/the-hollow-crown-mean-kings
      That whole blog in general, actually: http://meanshakespeare.tumblr.com/image/79659321627
      Doge Shakespeare: http://queerqueerspawn.tumblr.com/post/67532226767
      Hamlet comic: http://angry-comics.tumblr.com/post/7023921852

      These are some of the funnier ones, definitely the ones that are multimodal in nature.

      I’m also looking at rewritten texts, however. And will post some of those here as well!

  2. Caitlin,

    To answer your question about revising, does tumblr have a save button the way that wordpress does? I know wordpress only makes your stuff public once you publish it. Or is there a way to change privacy settings so that no one can see it until you’re done? These are all just thoughts. I know nothing about tumblr.

    As far as your content goes, I wonder what kind of conversations are already going on about this topic. I know almost as little about Shakespeare as I know about tumblr, but I’d imagine that someone is already talking about his digital adaptations. How do you see your work engaging with/diverging from these other conversations?

  3. Caitlin,

    I love this idea. I have a couple of questions:

    – Is there a Shakespeare tag on Tumblr with an already developed community? Mods? etc.

    – If not, what are the kind of boundaries for the Tumblr community you’ll be examining? Anyone who posts anything Shakespeare-related, or people who participate in conversations with each other via specific tags or tumblrs? I feel like part of this project may involve mapping out what a Tumblr community looks like in the first place.

    – Are you interested more in the creative rewriting of Shakespeare or in the kind of academic or literary criticism available? I’m not sure if these two things are inextricable from each other or entirely different projects.

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