Category Archives: 19th-century literature gems

A new Stanford course, a new Twitter role-play: #Frankensteinplay

As part of this quarter’s investigations into the ways social media and technology can enhance, complement and translate the study of literary classics in my new Stanford class,”Literature and Social Online Learning,” my students tried out a literary Twitter role-play for themselves: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, to be impersonated, interpreted, spoofed and socially connected for two days and nights over Halloween, October 30 and 31, 2014, with the hashtag #Frankensteinplay. This time, the prompt for the play was a virtual literary conceit: Victor Frankenstein, hot in pursuit of his Creature on the Arctic ice,  and presumably shortly before he gets picked up by Walton’s ship, falls asleep on the ice one night and has a nightmarish vision of being in front of the gates of hell, where he is verbally assaulted by all sorts of shady and illustrious characters from literature, history, popular culture, even sports (dead or alive). They were allowed to ask @victorasleep questions or prompt him to respond, using  #pokefrank as the hashtag, or  try to get into a direct dialogue with the Creature himself, @franksdaemon, who was (strangely) reachable in the virtual world via #pokemonster.

(Note for context: I first developed the idea of a literary role-play on Twitter for Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray back in October 2012. I have blogged about that experience here, and posted prompts for two more role-plays here and here.)

The full Storify of #Frankensteinplay is now available.  Some wonderful things happened this time ….

Because it was Halloween, people combined their Halloween experience with their novel-reading and role-playing experience and merged the physical event (trick-or-treating, party-going on Halloween) with the virtual one (the Twitter role-play) by posting pictures of decorations or themselves in costume, making costume-related jokes, and bringing Frankenstein’s creature together with other monsters to give him some company on Halloween.

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The instructors (Petra Dierkes-Thrun and Sebastian Thrun) made a special effort to dress the part for the role-play, doing their best to look credible as a Zombie Creature and a Haunted Bride (Elizabeth).

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They even enrolled their six-year-old son, who doubled as a (very changed) little William.

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The role-play announcement was widely retweeted and picked up on Twitter. At least one other literature professor assigned the role-play to her English class for extra credit:

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For the first time ever, a Twitterbot (built by @stargould, currently teaching her great Augmenting Realities 2.0 class at Duke University).


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In addition to the bot’s uncanny visits, not one but TWO virtual avatars from other digital writing projects related to the Hybrid Pedagogy journal and operated by one of its founders, Jesse Stommel (@jessifer), tweeted with us and engaged the novel in creative ways: @MOOCMOOC is a grumpy virtual monster who eats MOOCs (and presumably people in MOOCs if they are not careful), and @digiduck is the virtual mascot duck developed for DigiWriMo (Digital Writing Month, a digital writing project running along NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, which is happening every November).  @digiduck is clearly good with words and likes punning, in this case on the famous last line of Frankenstein, which sees the monster disappearing into the dark night:

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Filed under 19th-century literature gems, Digital pedagogy examples, Twitter role-plays

Dorian Gray and Friends: A Decadent Twitter Soirée


Update: The Storify of this Twitter role play is now at …


It is time to do a public literary role play on Twitter again! After the smashing success of last year’s 24-hour role play, in which hundreds of people from all over the world participated and lit up the Twitterverse with their wit and creativity, my Stanford students and I are ready to do it again–and to add some new twists and tweaks. Play with fictional characters not just from from Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray but also from other Decadent novels, plays,  and visual artworks, impersonate a Decadent author or artist at our virtual soirée, or visit Dorian Gray’s Shopping and To Do List on our new PINTEREST page. There are also rumors of Dorian Gray’s Portrait getting ready to rumble over there in the Facebook attic. (I’m sure that old chum will have interesting things to reveal while Dorian fools around with his friends on Twitter.)

Please join us! Spread the word, invite your students and colleagues, and get ready for 24 hours of unabashed 19th- and 21st-century Decadence on Twitter!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014, lasting a full 24 hours, day and night (like any self-respecting Decadent party).  Feel free to dress up in mask, tie, or cocktail attire and read on for all the juicy details below.


Pick a fictional character from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray or from any Decadent or Symbolist literary work–such as Flaubert’s The Temptation of Saint Anthony, Huysmans’ Against Nature, Rachilde’s Monsieur Vénus, Wilde’s Salomé or  “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime,” Baudelaire’s or Mallarmé’s poetry, etc.–or from the visual art of the period, such as Gustave Moreau’s Herod in L’Apparition, Klimt’s Judith, Franz von Stuck’s Sin, etc.  Tweet at least three brief statements (140 characters or less) addressed to Dorian Gray or another guest at this Decadent Twitter party throughout the course of the day.  Alternatively or in addition, feel free to impersonate a contemporaneous Decadent, Symbolist, or other author or artist writing to Dorian.  Possible authors or artists to consider might be Huysmans, Flaubert, Zola, Mallarme, Aubrey Bearsdley, Odilon Redon, Gustave Moreau, etc. Your tweets can include links to visual art–for instance, imagine Redon trying to sell his Ammonaria lithograph to Dorian with a few juicy words, or Beardsley submitting a sketch of attendees at Dorian’s latest orgy for Dorian’s consideration, or Moreau insisting that Des Esseintes and Dorian really misunderstood his Salome pictures … 

You may tweet in character as one or more people throughout the play, and let your character speak from a 19th- or a 21st-century perspective, since we are pretty sure some ghosts from the pasts will turn up and be eager to catch Dorian up on current events, culture, and the latest Decadent haunts on the internet.

And if you have some lingering bad feelings about your host, give Dorian a piece of your mind! Tell him what you think of him and his actions, lament or rejoice at his demise, assure him of your sympathy, flirt with him, insult him, adore him, ask him about his private doings, offer help, offer goods or decadent indulgences, give advice, heckle or praise, etc.–whatever tickles your fancy. Tell Dorian what you’ve always wanted to tell him but never dared to say. Be creative, be bold, be daring.  Snark, wit, and nostalgia are all welcome.  If you’re lucky, Dorian Gray will personally reply to you via our direct and personal line to the fictional and real dead, @wildedecadents!

Important: Please include the name of your chosen character and the hashtag #digwilde somewhere in your tweet. Post your tweets any time during your calendar day (24 hours) on Wednesday, March 19, 2014.  

Here are some sample tweets so you can get an idea of the possible format:

  • DORIAN: Spent the longest time in the closet. Couldn’t decide what to wear to the opera tonight. #digwilde
  • BASIL: This is too much. Next time, I’m painting a landscape. #digwilde
  • SIBYL: Dorian, I pine for you. The water is so cold! Take care of mother… #digwilde
  • SAINT ANTHONY: I wonder if I was reading the wrong book. #digwilde
  • RAOULE: Dorian, I have a thing or two to teach you. Bring your tools. #digwilde
  • EVE (from Stuck’s “Sensuality”): I dunno why you prefer bees to snakes, Dorian. My garden: more fun than yours. #digwilde

Possible fictional characters you might want to consider impersonating are

  • Lord Henry Wotton, Basil Hallward, Sibyl Vane, Alan Campbell, Hetty, Gladys, Lady Henry (from Dorian Gray)
  • Dorian’s portrait
  • Des Esseintes, a Jesuit priest, Miss Urania (from A rebours)
  • Raoule de Vénerande, Raittolbe, Jacques, Aunt Ermengarde, Marie Silvert (from Monsieur Vénus)
  • Beauty from Baudelaire’s “Hymn to Beauty” or the swan of “The Swan”
  • Saint Anthony, Hilarion, the Buddha from Flaubert’s Temptation of Saint Anthony
  • The old man in Mallarmé’s “The Windows”
  • Jean Delville’s “Idol of Perversity”
  • a Rossetti or Waterhouse beauty, such as Pandora or Circe
  • or any other character from a Decadent or Symbolist novel, play, essay, poem, or art work you’d like to impersonate in order to “talk back” to Dorian
  • … but we know you’ll come up with even better ideas! Let’s play!


Filed under 19th-century literature gems, Digital pedagogy examples

A Pen-Drawing of Leda

 By Michael Field


The Grand Duke’s Palace at Weimar

‘Tis Leda lovely, wild and free,

Drawing her gracious Swan down through the grass to see

Certain round eggs without a speck:

One hand plunged in the reeds and one dinting the downy neck,

Although his hectoring bill

Gapes toward her tresses,

She draws the fondled creature to her will.

She joys to bend in the live light

Her glistening body toward her love, how much more bright!

Though on her breast the sunshine lies

And spreads its affluence on the wide curves of her waist and thighs,

To her meek, smitten gaze

Where her hand presses

The Swan’s white neck sink Heaven’s concentred rays.


Source:  Michael Field, Sight and Song.  London: The Bodley Head [Elkin Mathews and John Lane], 1892. 

Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper

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Filed under 19th-century literature gems, Literature musings