Blog Post

Walt Whitman is better at Twitter than me.

I first came across Walt Whitman on Twitter a couple of years ago. I am not a Twitter user and admit I know very little about its possibilities, but I had agreed to tweet at a conference to help stimulate online conversations. Mr. Whitman’s byline at the time “I tweet of myself” caught the attention of my nineteenth-century Americanist humor, and from then on I started checking in with the newly risen Whitman. A recent article in The Atlantic has called attention again to Whtiman’s affinity for Twitter. As the article discusses and as Whtiman’s current tweets show, a new online edition of Leaves of Grass is in the process of being created, redubbed “TweetsofGrass.” Rather than tweet Whitman in smaller parts, the purpose of this project was to give users a sense of the fuller context from which many of Whitman’s seemingly one-liners come. Luckily, Whitman’s style is perfect for Twitter, easily fitting the 140 word character limit. The best part of this new edition in my opinion, however – we can respond and interact with it. We have the opportunity to tweet back at Whitman’s masterpiece or at least the people behind it.

While this project brings up an exciting set of questions about online editions, the project most interests me for its interactivity. It offers a unique way to engage undergraduate classrooms as well as a more public audience studying/interested in Whitman – and with over 14,000 followers, it seems people are definitely interested. How could we use this edition of Leaves to stimulate engagement in the classroom? Could we have students tweet back to Whitman in, say, the diction/allusion/style of his own poetry? Or, what about having students respond back through the words of another poet? Shakespeare’s on Twitter, don’t ya know, and he is currently tweeting his own work as well. In fact, he has over 55,000 followers.

More broadly, how do you use twitter in the classroom? What type of assignments do you use it for?   

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