Tarding down literature

Does this sound like a good idea?

Woe un2mnkind! The text message is trying to summarise the great poet John Milton and a respected academic thinks this may be a smart new way to teach literature.

A company offering mobile phones to students has hired Professor John Sutherland, professor emeritus of English Literature at University College London, to offer subscribers text message summaries and quotes from literary classics.

The hope is that messages in the truncated shorthand of mobile phones will help make great literature more accessible.

So butchering the classics into text-messaging shorthand that are barely understandable will make them more accessible? Oh, this is so, so wrong.

First of all, there’s no “teaching” of literature going on here; you might as well be getting summaries of last night’s episode of “Lost”—only reading “MadwyfSetsFyr2Haus” would not entice me to pick up Jane Eyre.

Second of all, what does a professor emeritus of English Literature even know about text-messaging shorthand? Jeez, I don’t know much, but the examples they give seem contrived even to me.

Third, what self-respecting teen would subscribe to this service? Here’s a hint—those of us who, as teens, were into literature and could quote from various works really, really weren’t a part of that crowd. If you wanted to be part of that crowd, well, you wouldn’t be getting literature on your phone, as it were.

Via Slashdot.

Update 11/17: CNN has a better article which has more on the pushback against the service.