Ya never know what you’re gonna get when you do an experiment like Looking for Whitman, but as this thing heats up I have to say I a getting more and more excited. Joe D who is either from Camden or CUNY is an absolute nut, and I love it. He immediately introduces the playful into his blog, and beautifully marries the thoughtful and funny elements of Whitman. What’s more, he does it in the new verse of the online world (which is exactly what Whitman would have yawp’d for!). It seems as if the misspelled and cartoon metaphors that have emerged from LOL culture graft upon Whitman quite well, opening up some brilliant figures for tracing what still remains remarkable and shocking about Whitman’s work—it’s irreverence of form and foregrounding of the body 🙂 The image below is from Joe D.’s post “What’s the story?”
I may be wrong, but isn’t he re-translating a New Yorker cartoon into LOL language? Offering another layer to the interpretation of the drawing , at once less literary and New Yorker-like (read that as stuffy and lame) and more fluid, real, and ridiculous. He’s not winking to the keyed in reader that gets the quote and can join in on the laugh. He is simultaneously mocking that sense of exclusion and opening up the insanity of Whitman to everyone, a kind of comic democratization of this poet—a meming if you will.
What’s more, and there is more, is that his previous post quickly and brilliantly set up the parameters for a game that can be played by all the Whitman classes. In short, he’ll identify a word from the reading he didn’t understand, but rather than looking it up, he will create an image of what he thinks the word meant as he read it. For example, when he read the terms ““mullein & pokeweed” from “Song of Myself” he created an image of what he thought it meant, and then opened up the comments for someone to tell him what it really means. The student with the most correct responses will get a plate of cookies by the end of the semester. He is calling this “The Wrong idea Contest,” and you can see the first installment here—genius! Making something you don’t know both fun, participatory, and creative—if this is how the Looking for Whitman class is going to be, I’m even more blown away than I was originally. What if the students start meming Whitman? How relevant, appropriate and absolutely sick would that be? In fact, between Whitman the Barbarian and the “Whitman sez: Naked > Books” I think we might be witnessing the bleeding of the online cultural language into the classroom, or even blurring some of those rigid distinctions, and what better catalyst than Whitman? You bring the fun back into a distributed classroom, and you captures so much of what is lost in the fully online, LMS imprisoned spaces, you introduce the interstitial spaces of inflection, silliness, and one’s personality. OMFG!