What is Twitterature?

Twitterature: Literary classics rewritten for the 21st century
You might think Shakespeare and Twitter have nothing in common, but reporter Mari Fagel found two students who are bridging the generational gap.

Twitterature is the amalgamation of ‘twitter’ and ‘literature’; the goal is to use the tweet as a literacy device, all the while respecting the limits of the 140 characters.

Alexander Aciman and Emmett Rensin are students at the University of Chicago and authors of Twitterature — the novel, published on April 1st, 2010. In this work,

"you will find over eighty of the greatest works of western literature – from Beowulf to Bronte, from Kafka to Kerouac, and from Dostoevsky to Dickens – each distilled through the voice of Twitter to its purest, pithiest essence". (Twitterature)

Yet, the question begs to be asked: is Twitterature in a printed format still considered to be Twitterature? Do tweets need to be online to be considered Twitterature? Stéphane Bataillon conducts a state-of-the-field review on this very matter: Twittérature, la littérature sur Twitter : un état des lieux.

According to Wikipédia, "twittérature" pre-dates "twitterature" as the former exists since Twitter's early beginnings in July 13th 2006, at the exact moment when it went live on the Internet. The Institut de Twittérature Comparée (ITC) is an excellent online resource (in French) to learn more about "twittérature".

"L’Institut de Twittérature Comparée (ITC) existe parce que Twitter existe. Parce que la littérature existe. Parce qu’il est possible de rédiger des textes en moins de 140 caractères (espaces compris). Parce qu’on peut être drôle et intelligent à la fois et vice versa. Parce qu’on peut être aussi simultanément dense et léger, brut et subtil, lent et rapide, cérébral et viscéral, poétique et discursif. La twittérature existe enfin parce qu’une nanorhétorique des antithèses, oxymorons compris, stimule l’essor et l’éclat ; elle y trouve sa piste d’envol et son champ d’exploration." (ITC)

Jean-Yves Fréchette is the founder and president of the Institut de twittérature comparée de Québec, which was founded in 2010. He is also the author of the pedagogical guide for the Tweet Pals - Twitosphère project: Pedagogical scenarios in Twitter. These Twittersphere activities offer two kinds of learning opportunities:

  1. An introduction to the ‘netiquette’ of the tiniest type of social media (Twitter),
  2. Writing drills designed to explore a second language (French for English speakers and English for French speakers).

Students will explore the Twitterverse by completing these writing drills:

  • The mini-story in 140 characters
  • Summary or minuscule writing
  • The mini-poem: the Haiku

Twitterature Examples

@VeryShortStory Very Short Story

The therapy seemed to be working until I realized I was the patient, not the doctor. It got worse when I figured out I was just the chair.

@VeryShortStory Very Short Story

My father came to live with me. It was my turn to say "my house, my rules". I took away his glass and made him drink from the milk carton.

@VeryShortStory Very Short Story

I checked in the mirror to see if I was still projecting an image. There was none. Mary was right, she could see right through me.

@smallplaces smallplaces

The sirens are gone. But I still feel them. I hear sounds as if bees are swirling through tunnels.

@smallplaces smallplaces

The phone is off. I turn it on. It slowly lights the room like a flickering candle.

Haiku Examples

@AloeMantis Daniel Hand

Snow day of silence ~ only distant snowmobiles ~ plowing through nightfall #ontario #snowday #haiku

@caneballante dancing dog

oh brave daffodils ~ braving the frosty morning ~ first settlers of spring #haiku

@caneballante dancing dog

RT @gennepher: an aeroplane / flying / overhead / suddenly / flaps its wings #gogyohka #micropoetry #poetry

Examples of Tweeters who write Twitterature

Very Short Story
Twitter sized fiction for your entertainment. Stories by @sean_hill. Feedback welcomed. Send me a noun and I'll use the ones that inspire me in a story. Thanks.
Story by @nickbelardes began April 25, 2008 and ended March 8, 2010. It's the first literary Twitter novel.
Félix Fénéon
Narratives compressed into a single frame, these 3-line news items from Le Matin “are the poems & novels Fénéon never otherwise wrote.” Translated by Luc Sante.
Everywhere haiku twitters for your soul

SHARE! If you have suggestions on Twitterature, please send them to Tweet Pals!