Okay, kids, get comfy. It’s time to vent.
Today in my research class aka the Class From Down Under (and I don’t mean Australia), my professor called our attention to a new project underway by the cell phone company Dot Mobile. Apparently, the company is condensing the great literary classics into short text messages that students can download for studying. They are launching the project in January and plan to have all of Shakespeare’s works complete by April. So basically Hamlet boils down to “2B or NT2B?=???” and Romeo and Juliet becomes “Romeo, Romeo–wher4 Rt thou Romeo?” The beautiful complexity of Paradise Lost is reduced to “devl kikd outa hevn coz jelus of jesus&strts war.” Forget that these little messages really serve no study purpose since they don’t even capture all of the plot points or aid in the comprehension of the finer points of the work. Forget that they couldn’t possibly help a student understand Hamlet’s soliloquies even if they know one little line.
What really irks me about this is that such a project takes a literary classic and strips it of the very thing that makes it such–its “literariness.” There is no literary quality in a text message. You can’t appreciate the theological nuances of Paradise Lost or Divine Comedy by reading a text message. You can’t appreciate the artful quality of a well-placed Shakespearean pun in a text message. And even simplifying Hamlet to a mere plot summary does nothing, for any student of literature knows that Shakespeare ripped off most of his plots from other people. What makes Shakespeare great is not the stories; it’s the way he tells the stories. It’s their literariness.
What Dot mobile is doing is giving students yet another excuse not to read. As if they need any more. And what’s worse–they’ve had a professor consulting with them on the writing of these text messages. I just can’t even begin to understand that. So I beg you, go and read a book! A real book! (If you want suggestions, I’d be happy to supply them.) Put down your Cliffs Notes, don’t go to SparkNotes, go to the real source and eat it up, every last morsel. Will that take time? Duh. But all things worth doing take time. That’s part of what makes it worthwhile. A text message? With the push of button, you can delete it and it’s gone. Literature? Literature is forever.
If you want to read about this, click here. And a Google search of dot mobile will pull up other results as well.