Tag Archives: composition

Shakespr: (Re)creationally Writing Hamlet Online






My project argues, through a case study on Hamlet, that tumblr users in the Shakespeare fandom have constructed their own Shakespeare that reflects both the demystification of the exception Author and the deconstruction of a monolithic, culture-controlling Academy. While tumblr users genuinely seem to enjoy Shakespeare’s work and value the texts immensely, they do not bring a sense of reverence to Shakespeare as typically presented in high school and college classrooms. They engage in the queer readings some academics pursue but that never reach a first-time reader of Hamlet. They place Hamlet next to Ke$ha without batting an eye. And they turn Hamlet‘s narrative into a series of emojiis. (Among other things). Often through collaborative writing , tumblr re-presents, remixes, and remediates Shakespeare. Along the way, the site recreates Shakespeare’s body of work as fun and flexible, and Shakespeare becomes Shakespr.


I suppose I can say that I started this essay (without really knowing it) before I started this course. I have been on tumblr for several years now, and I have been pursuing Renaissance literature (particularly Shakespeare) for about the same amount of time. So, before the course began, I had already had on my blog several posts from other users about Shakespeare. Posts I found fascinating to view.

When I began this course, I knew early on that I wanted to work with tumblr. As I’ll talk more about below, I think that tumblr’s interface – though it might take a bit getting used to – allows for variation in digital composition.

In looking at the Shakespeare posts, I first continued my collection work. I followed as many Shakespeare blogs I could find, reblogged a bunch of posts about Hamlet, used my tumblr at first to curate.

I then went through these posts to categorize the different modes users employed in discussing Shakespeare. It was at this point that I made the divisions: re-present, remix, and remediate. I organized the blog by dramatic vocabulary: preface, dramatis personae, three acts, an epilogue, and source materials. I then got a lot of excellent feedback from my group on how to guide my audience across these divisions.


For me, the main appeal of tumblr is the way in which posts are divided. A post can be text, photo, video, a chat, a link, a quotation, or any variation/combination thereof. Tumblr can be extremely visually appealing as it integrates all of these sources.

But, I would say even more than that, tumblr is immediately public in a way other blogging sites are not. If I tag a post “Shakespeare” the post immediately moves into the website tags, where anyone who is scrolling through or tracking the tag can see it. Users on tumblr also, then, read differently. They usually read in their dashboard – looking at tracked tags or what the people they follow reblog. Generally speaking, they do not encounter a blog by going to the blog home page, but by seeing one post by that user and then looking for more. The interaction this enables made me view my writing as much more public than I otherwise would (especially when I was writing my commentary directly on the posts of other users).


Tumblr is not designed for a linear essay. One of the constraints I dealt with was how to link clearly and easily across all of my posts so that users both familiar and unfamiliar with the site could navigate my essay. The other main constraint is in the writing process on tumblr; when things are posted, they are (generally) complete posts. So I did have to respond to one confused (and slightly aggressive) anonymous message about how my blog was working.

Overall, I have absolutely enjoyed this writing process and project, and might have already started a more long-term blog about being a graduate student more broadly…(plug).

I look forward to talking about my work and hearing about everyone else’s!

Mining the Archollection, Writing the “Stuff of Life”

In his chapter on remix, Adam Banks draws from the work of Catherine Latterell because of her attraction to the concept of remix as something that “allows students ways of juxtaposing texts and ideas from academic and popular culture as well as other forms of public discourse and encourages students to create a wide range of print, oral, and digital texts” (88). Although Banks is clearly interested in these pedagogical values of remix, he advocates that our definition of what remixes, mixtapes, and samples are and do should also emphasize how they enact a “synchronizing of generational commonalities and tensions that allows, even demands, innovation while remaining linked with histories and traditions” (90-1).

So, even if we aren’t explicitly utilizing African American rhetoric within our first-year composition courses, how can we get our students “to remix history in order to point a new way forward” (100)? Furthermore, how can we get them to recognize composition as one giant “digital humanities project, as a thorough linking of texts, techne, and technologies” (155)?

I’m especially interested in how Banks calls for a “linking of texts” that preserves their “histories and traditions” because it feels (at least to me) like he is proposing a New Historicist approach to composition, which could have numerous exciting possibilities. And I very much agree with his assertions that we, as teachers, cannot “create any syllabus or teach anything without the explicit and implicit borrowing and reuse that DJs have celebrated and mastered,” and that “[e]very course we teach is a mixtape” (138).

But what are some examples of texts that we can introduce into our first-year composition classrooms that carry with them historic import?

Well, I’d like to think that material culture (or Material Culture?) is a fine place to start.

In my past two years of teaching E110 here at UD, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching my students’ reactions when I introduce their final writing assignment of the semester: a material culture multimedia project that asks each of them to examine a significant object from their own lives. They first write a personal narrative detailing how that object has helped them understand who they are as individuals but also as members of various communities (family, school, hometown, teams, etc.). They must then transform that narrative generically for a class presentation.

Initially, they view material culture as just a bunch of “stuff,” not as a series of “texts” that can offer valuable insight into their personal histories.  Sort of like this guy:

Because I like to make their lives “miserable,” obvi.

But their final projects almost always rise to the challenge:

ImageAnd what I’ve received are narratives centered around extremely evocative objects: a childhood home, a bracelet commemorating a loved one, a tchotchke from their birth country, or even a video game that has helped them through major life transitions like divorce or changing school systems.

So, why material culture then? Well, for Banks, part of what is at stake in using African American rhetoric in composition is to show black students how to interact with their backgrounds/origins, and their capabilities in a multimodal world. Material culture, as I’ve shown in the project I have my students complete, achieves a similar end. Likewise, Banks wants us to educate our students on how “to critically examine the technologies they often use without careful consideration” (88). To that end, it would behoove us to conceptualize material culture not just as “stuff” but as an archollection (archive & collection) of critical life technologies, ones that we may take for granted through everyday use but nonetheless tell us a great deal about who we are, where we came from, and what we can do both inside and outside of the composition classroom.