New literary practices

In Washington, Iuri Moscardi presented the TwLetteratura method on which Betwyll is based, in a panel on the cross-fertilization between Twitter and literature.

The NeMLA annual conference

The NeMLA (North Eastern Modern Language Association) is the section of the Modern Language Association for the North Eastern United States. Founded in 1883, the MLA gathers scholars, researchers and students studying modern languages and literatures. Every year, the MLA and its regional divisions organize a conference where participants can discuss and share the results of their academic researches. In particular, round tables and seminars are very useful to share ideas and methodologies for research, didactics and teaching.

The NeMLA annual conference 2019 took place in Washington, DC, from 21 to 24 March. I was selected to present a paper within the panel “Disrupting the Boundaries: Twitter as a New Literary Practice?”, organized by professors Giusy Di Filippo from College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts and Martina di Florio from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

A case of active reception of the literary text

My speech, “TwLetteratura: Active Reception of the Literary Text”, served as an introduction to those of the other four speakers, who were mentioning TwLetteratura’s social reading projects.

I presented the peculiarities of the methodology on which the projects of TwLetteratura, before, and, currently, Betwyll, are based: the choice of a text to read together; the creation of a specific reading calendar to follow; finally, the actual “game”, reading and commenting the content of the text. After underlining it is something unique – quite different from what told for instance by Alexander Aciman and Emmett Rensin in their book Twitterature published in 2009 – I showed some data about a series of projects closely related to Italian literature: #LunaFalò#Invisibili#Corsari and #TwSposi. I chose those projects for two reasons: they are literary projects and they are based on books of the Italian literature, my area of concentration as a PhD student in Comparative Literature at City University New York.

In addition, I showed how I aim to study these social reading projects during my PhD, i.e. applying the reception theory formulated by the scholars from the Constance School (mainly, Wolfgang Iser and Hans Robert Jauss) in the ’60s and ’70s. According to such theory, the reader plays an essential role not only as the book buyer, but also as a function providing meaning to the text in two ways. On the one hand, it is on the function of the reader (Umberto Eco’s model reader) that the author builds his/her own work. On the other, the reader must reconstruct the information he/she receivers while reading and give them a meaning. In my opinion, the tweets and twylls produced by the participants to TwLetteratura and Betwyll’s social reading projects show exactly this process, namely they allow the reader to give shape to his/her own personal reception of the text and to share it with other readers.

Disrupting the boundaries: the panel

As I was mentioning, my speech dialogued with the other four. Perla Sassón-Henry from US Naval Academy described the work by Mexican writer Mauricio Montiel Figueiras, who created the two Twitter accounts @Elhombredetweed and @LamujerdeM and then made them the protagonists of his novels.

Jennifer Gutman from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee analyzed how Black box – the short novel that American writer Jennifer Egan published from the New Yorker’s Twitter account and that still remains one of the very few examples of literature written using Twitter – mirrors our relation with the social network.

Professor Di Filippo instead analyzed the projects TwLetteratura made on Cesare Pavese: #LunaFalò, #Leucò, #PaesiTuoi and the Twitter Fiction Festival where five of his poems were read and commented on. The professor identified deep reading, re-writing, construction/reconstruction as the key features of these experiences, which have deconstructed Pavese, breathing new life into some of his books, such as Dialogues with Leucò.

Finally, professor Di Florio underlined the strong connections between TwLetteratura’s projects and the reflections Italo Calvino made in the ’80s with respect to the future of books and literature: making the reader active and creating a community are TwLetteratura’s cornerstones as well as the writer’s suggestions for a future where he imagined books and computers had to dialogue.

It was a really interesting panel, where every speech was in dialogue with the others. Moreover, some interesting questions from the audience allowed me and the other speakers to show the different strategies used to comment on literary contents in short messages and to analyze how the public and the private dimensions interact within a social network. We also had time to showcase Betwyll, the app that uses the TwLetteratura method – defined “unique” by professor Di Filippo – and applies it to a new interactive digital environment, whose didactic value is enhanced by the chance to create tailored projects for every kind of school.

Iuri Moscardi

PhD student
Betwyll North America Desk

Born in 1986, he graduated in Milan with a thesis on Cesare Pavese. He discovered TwLetteratura thanks to Pavese, one of the first authors to be read with this social reading method. He believes that TwLetteratura is an innovative approach to literature: for this reason, after a MA in Italian at Indiana University (Bloomington), he started his PhD at CUNY focusing his research on this social reading method as a new form of reception. He is a project manager for Betwyll, and writes on journals and newspapers, both on paper (La Lettura, Il Foglio, La Stampa, Giornale di Brescia) and online (Il Lavoro Culturale, La Voce di New York, Esquire). During his spare time, he reads and supports Juventus. His blog is curiously named Il Tubero (the Tuber).

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