This blog deals with the book Twitterature: The World’s Greatest Books Retold Through Twitter (2009), by Alexander Aciman and Emmett Rensin, and how we should interpret the book as a form of transmedia storytelling.
As the title explains, this book contains retellings of classic (and less classic) world literature, retold through twenty tweets or less. It contains books such as Kafka’s The Metamorphosis (1915), Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (1856), but also modern bestsellers such as the Harry Potter series (1997-2007) and The Da Vinci Code (2003).
Let’s look at some quotes. The irony is undeniable.
From Paradise Lost: ‘OH MY GOD I’M IN HELL’, and ‘Sitting on our asses waiting from an apology from G-d isn’t exactly renegade. Pussies.’
From The Metamorphosis: ‘I seem to have transformed into a large bug. Has this ever happened to any of you? No solution on Web MD.’
From Pride and Prejudice (1813) by Jane Austen: ‘Oh shit, some rich young gentlemen just showed up. Score!’
Twitterature is a form of what media scholar Henry Jenkins calls ‘transmedia storytelling’:
Transmedia storytelling practices may expand the potential market for a property by creating different points of entry for different audience segments (…) the strategy may work to draw viewers who are comfortable in a particular medium to experiment with alternative media platforms (as in the development of a Desperate Housewives game designed to attract older female consumers into gaming). 
We could interpret Twitterature as the bait and the true, unadulterated classic books as the fish that is being caught with the bait. A young tweeter can read Pride and Prejudice in twenty tweets, have the time of his or her life and then decide to go and read the original. But were all these tweet adaptations primarily made to make people go and read the book? That is, of course, very hard to believe.
Twitterature evokes a scent of rebellion, as if the authors wanted to say: look at how we ridicule these elitist classic novels and make more money and gather more fame than some of the original authors, Kafka for example, did during their lifetime. But according to social media scientist Pamela Ingleton, this is an illusion:
We see how Aciman and Rensin’s pet project performs rebellion against and subversion of some kind of assumed, legitimate “literariness” in order to undermine the system, but in the end does no more than reaffirm it. Twitterature is not operating at the margins of the cultural sphere; in fact, as a published book, it is operating at its centre.
Even though Twitterature only could have been written in the digital age, it still is nothing new. It is merely a corollary of postmodern fiction, where ‘a hyper-aware intertextuality becomes a playground of “adaptation, translation, parody, pastiche, imitation, and other kinds of transformation.’’’
Made by Jut, 26-5-2013
Aciman, Alexander & Rensin, Emmett. (2009) Twitterature: The World’s Greatest Books Retold Through Twitter. New York: Penguin Books.
Jenkins, Henry. (March 22, 2007) ‘Transmedia Storytelling 101’, http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html (May 2013)
Ingleton, Pamela. (2012) ‘How Do You Solve a Problem Like Twitterature? Reading and Theorizing ‘Print’ Technologies in the Age of Social Media’, Technoculture vol. 2. http://tcjournal.org/drupal/vol2/ingleton (May 2013)