From years of use, people know this: Twitter can be a lot of noise.
But sometimes, to get a tweet just right, to make it fit, I stop and consider the language. In this digital format, we are forced to distill and compress, two poetic virtues that the web rarely requires.
But what if you’re not trying to describe an airport or a sunset, but Beowulf, the (gory, dark) epic Old English poem?
That was the task that Stanford medievalist (and “text technologies”) researcher Elaine Treharne took on. She compressed Beowulf into 100 tweets as part of teaching her course on the many “existing and imagined manifestations” of the work.
“The underlying theoretical question for this course is ‘What is (the) Text?’ What constitutes Beowulf? What is its core and what do we understand by ‘Beowulf’?” she wrote in her explanation of the project. “In some senses, this seeks to address, for Beowulf, F. W. Bateson’s question, ‘If the Mona Lisa is in the Louvre, where then are Hamlet and Lycidas?’”