Romeo and Juliet and the Cybertextual: Artistic Crowdsourcing as Audience Appropriation

Activity: External talk or presentationOral presentation


A paper on the presence of Shakespeare’s ‘star-cross’d lovers’ within popular online culture. Using Gérard Genette’s theories of adaptation and appropriation, I will give an overview of the five categories of transtextuality, with particular reference to the terms ‘hypertext’ and ‘hypotext’, and highlight how these categories should be expanded to include a sixth: cybertextuality. The marriage of what Genette refers to as the ‘indeterminate compound – namely transtextuality – and the physical use of the electronic hyperlink, creates a ‘web’ of connections that feed numerous web pages unto others until it is impossible to tell which truly predates the other.

It proposes that a subcategory of the cybertextual – artistic crowdsourcing – has been dominated in the last couple of years by Shakespeare’s ‘star-cross’d lovers’. Artistic crowdsourcing’s main differentiation from other subsections of this genre lie within the conception of its texts: the audience becomes the author. This concept of audience participation, particularly within the creation of a new text, relies heavily upon each individual’s own relationship with the original text. Is it possible for people from all over the world to create a coherent and unified artistic response to a text?

In order to address these challenges, the paper references two recent crowdsourcing events: Mass Animation’s short film 'Live Music', and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 'Such Tweet Sorrow' – a retelling of 'Romeo and Juliet' via Twitter. Using their contrasting approaches towards the original text, I will highlight the way in which it is the universally known story of Shakespeare’s known ‘star-cross’d lovers’ that has enabled the development of a new kind of adaptation and appropriation; one that simultaneously begins to adapt and appropriate itself whilst adapting and appropriating the original hypotext.
Period10 Sept 2011
Event titleCambridge Shakespeare Conference: Shakespeare: Sources and Adaptation
Event typeConference
LocationCambridge, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational