Literary Web Series: A Modern Retelling of the Classics

I’m more of a Charlotte Brontë fan, myself, but after binging on Pemberley Digital’s “Emma Approved,” I might be more inclined to pick up a Jane Austen book- or two.

The 72 episodes (yes, I watched them in a span of 24 hours) are a modern rendition of Jane Austen’s novel, Emma:

“Emma amuses herself by matchmaking, convinced of her own superiority and knowledge of people’s hearts.”

The web series showcases Emma Woodhouse as a 20-something lifestyle coach/event planner/matchmaker/all-around-renaissance woman whose ambitious yet stubborn spirit gets her into a world of trouble.

Binge-watching a web series was not how I imagined spending my Sunday, but I thoroughly enjoyed the show and it got me to thinking. Modern re-telling of classic contemporary tales as web series could be a way to rejuvenate, preserve, and inspire interest in a new generation of readers. By applying the story to a modern-day context, it delivers the story in a message that appeals to the digital generation while sparking interest in what the original text was about.

“Emma Approved” isn’t the only literary-inspired web series from Pemberley Digital; the production company is also responsible for the widely popular, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Welcome to Sandition, and Frankenstein MD (Which airs on PBS).

And Pemberley Digital isn’t the only one retelling classic tales. There are web series about Romeo&JulietJane Eyre, and more.

With web series like “Emma Approved,” classic literature has the ability to make its mark on yet another generation of readers.

Could this perhaps be an emerging trend that book publishers invest in to generate interest and sales of classic and  not-so-widely-known classic literature?

I guess we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, what are some classic tales you’d like to see in a modern-day rendition?

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Viola Davis; A Dynamic Character

Viola Davis’ recent comments on still, after decades of hard work in the film industry, not receiving roles where she is “the show” aren’t very shocking…to me at least. The plight of dynamic female characters of color in television and film has always been an obvious, yet largely ignored, fact. Black actresses are often stifled in stereotypical roles that allow no room for personality, growth, or life. While this plight still largely plagues film and television, Viola Davis is the star of ABC’s new drama, How to Get Away With Murder, where she reveals she no longer has to play “mama” or “maid”, but a woman who is “alternately commanding, personally messy and sexual.” As we anticipate the launch of Davis’ new television venture (premiering September 25 10:00PM EST/9:00PM CT), I wanted to share three of my favorite novels featuring complex, dynamic, and inspiring female characters of color.

Quicksand – Nella Larsen

The main character, Helga Crane, is a dynamic woman walking the tightrope of two distinctively different worlds trying to figure out her place in both or whether or not she fits at all. Quicksand explores themes of love, marriage, race, and black femininity during the time of the Harlem Renaissance.

Dance on the Volcano – Marie Chauvet

This visceral and complex tale explores the tenacious spirit of a young, beautiful Haitian afranchie singer, Minette, determined to provide a better life for herself and her loved ones. She uses her talent to secure independence and a weapon against tyranny and oppression. This metaphorical text is set against the backdrop of the tumultuous years leading up to the Haitian Revolution, and examines the challenges of love, hate, independence, and equality.

I Am a Martinican Woman Mayotte Capécia

Capécia provides an autobiographical coming-of-age tale about her experience as a woman living in Martinique, and the constant dynamic battles of racism, sexism, and colorism all fighting to confine a human spirit much too resilient to submit.

The list of books featuring dynamic female characters of color goes on; what are some of your favorite novels?

J. California Cooper Passes Away at Age 82

“Prolific writer and playwright J. California Cooper has died at the age of 82, a family friend has confirmed to Ebony.com”

My condolence to the family of Ms. Cooper and may she rest in peace. Thank You for all of your contributions to culture and literature, Ms. Cooper.

5 Books You May or May Not Have Known Are “Banned”

Though America may be the land known for it’s freedom of speech, there are many books that are censored and banned from library shelves to school reading lists. Book censorship can often be a disadvantage to students and readers in general as it leaves us without a dynamic world of literature. In honor of #BannedBooksWeek, a week where bibliophiles celebrate the importance of books, I wanted to share a list of famous books that are infamous for their controversial subject matters, which have led them to be banned from many educational, correctional, and community-service institutions around the country.

1. Paradise – Toni Morrison 

2. Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison

3. Go Tell it on the Mountain – James Baldwin

4. Their Eyes Were Watching God –  Zora Neale Hurston

5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

All of these authors have contributed works that have had such influential impact on culture and society. Without their audacious courage to write such eye-opening texts, life and literature wouldn’t be the same.

Have you read any of the aforementioned books? What books have you been shocked to hear are banned?

How Digital Media is Evolving Literacy

It’s safe to say that, in 2014, we are living in a digital world. I really don’t need stats to prove that, but if you’re into that sort of thing: 

On Mobile, Tweets and Pins Thrive: Consumer Social Sharing Trends 2014 - #infographic #socialmedia

A Day in the Life of the Modern Smartphone User #Infographic

Now, with all of us actively engaging on some digital platform…what does that mean for literacy? How does this affect the way we read? This is an age-old question I’ve been posing since the birth of the digital world (which happened to be somewhere around the same time of my actual birth). I am a bibliophile; I’ve been reading since I could speak. Reading is a cathartic way to learn about yourself and the world around and outside of you. 

I can count on one hand the amount of people I know who enjoy reading let alone who can read above a proficient level. This is something that often terrifies me for two reasons:

1. Because, hello, reading is amazing, everyone should love it!

2. The level of literacy affects your life more than you think it does

The Most Powerful Weapon In The World Is The One 775 Million People Don’t Know How To Use

So with people barely bothering to pick up physical books or newspapers anymore, the Digital World has become a threat to Literacy which is an overall threat to humanity’s well-being and, therefore, we should cancel the internet, right? Wrong! 

Each day we are sharing an opinion on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, watching a video on YouTube or Vine, writing about our feelings on Tumblr and all of the other forms of digital media that exist. We are reading. These every day habitual activities are improving our analytic and critical thinking skills without us even realizing it. Not only are we sharing our opinion, but we are analyzing information being presented to us which is the very definition of reading/comprehension, just not in the traditional form of turning a page. 

Traditionally, literacy is more than the ability to read the word on the page, it is one’s ability to comprehend and analyze the message, but even that definition is evolving. In the article, Media Literacy: Media Literacy: A National Priority for a Changing World, authors Elizabeth Thoman and Jessa Jolls define literacy as not only being able to comprehend and analyze the message being presented, but to develop your own thoughts about what you’ve read.

“What is important is not so much the message itself as how we make sense of the message and by extension, of the mediated world around us” – Thoman, Jolls

Reading is no longer a stationary sport (or punishment, according to some people), it has now fully integrated itself into our everyday digital lives.  Thoman and  Jolls discuss this diversity when they highlight author Douglas Rushkoff’s idea that these new forms of reading are through a multitude of screens ” which they [screen-agers (those born into the digital world)] both access and manipulate in a constantly evolving stream of shared definition”.

You don’t even have to pick up a book to read! Now, while bibliophiles like me will always enjoy the feel of turning pages, this is great news for those who have viewed reading as “torturous,” “difficult,” and “boring” (not my words). So the next time someone tells you that you should get off the internet and pick up a book, tell them, “I am reading by consuming information being presented to me in a multimedia format and analyzing the messages to develop my own critical and analytic thinking skills” … or you can just refer them to this blog post. 

Read more of Elizabeth Thoman and Joll’s views on Media Literacy and it’s importance here

What are your thoughts on digital media’s impact on literacy?

Mobile Reading

Reading is boring…said no one ever. Ok, maybe a few of you have said that, but have you ever really thought about why you find reading to be a snooze fest?

Is it because there are no pictures, no sounds? Or is it because reading is too stationary and you have a hard time sitting still? 

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions then guess what, you’re going to love reading from now on. Thanks to digital media, reading can be adapted to your everyday mobile life–you don’t even need to pick up a book. Digital Media actually allows you to adapt reading to your learning style.

1. Auditory 

Are you a person who learns better when listening? For all my auditory learners, or people who just don’t have the time to sit still, reading is as easy as downloading an audiobook from audible or even renting an audio book from the library. Audio books allow you to read everywhere from your car to the treadmill. Auditory reading also helps to:

-Understand how words are pronounced
-Strengthen critical listening skills
-Strengthen concentration to skills, builds focus

2.  Visual 

How many of you are visual learners? You have to see something in order to better comprehend. Well, don’t fret—reading can be adapted your visual and mobile life. Thanks to ebooks you can take a book from your laptop, to your phone, to your phone. Not only are you enjoying the weightlessness of an ebook, you’re able to get a book the second you want it instead of waiting days for it to arrive in the mail or be available in the library/store. E-books help to:

-Improve spelling
-Develop analytical and critical thinking skills
-Improve vocabulary

3. Kinesthetic 

If you are more of an interactive learner who comprehends when you are physically engaged in some way then reading is for you, too! Engage your mind and your fingers in the many fun and interactive apps that will exercise your imagination while improving your reading speed and comprehension. From any mobile device you can download apps that make reading an interactive sport. Check out the Spritz reading app and see how many words you can read per second! You can even improve your vocabulary and help to fight world hungry with the FreeRice site. While you’re playing such engaging apps you are also helping to: 

-Build vocabulary and strengthen writing skills
-Develop critical thinking skills
-Increase reading speed

The Digital World has mobilized everything from the way we engage socially to the way we watch television. Reading isn’t a thing of the past, but yet, has adapted and expanded the future. Without the presence of a book, you are still able to improve the following skills that come with avid reading. The act of reading never has to be boring anymore. It is just as mobile and dynamic as you! So get out there, pick up a device, and start reading.

What’s your favorite way to read?