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

Williams, A. (Presenter)

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 Sep 2011
Held atCambridge Shakespeare Conference
Event typeConference
LocationCambridge, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational