Accessibility or Reduction (of Literature)?

January 27, 2014

The New York Times has posted an article about the latest alternative to the (Cliff Notes) alternative to reading a book in its entirety. In the latest Critic’s Notebook entry, “Homies in Verona, Gangstas in Elsinore”, author Neil Genzlinger expresses his seemingly disgusted amazement at the latest technique used to summarize classic literary works.

Thug-Notes, a rap version of Sparknotes (no affiliation), features a fictitious persona, Dr. Sparky Sweets, played by comedian Greg Edwards, who raps a summary of literary works such as Moby Dick and Romeo and Juliet for the masses. Genzlinger refers to similar websites and personas that use the “language of the streets” to explain literature, mathematic  concepts, historical events and science terms as “a trend” that he defines as the  “application of street sensibility to high-culture, high-concept areas.”

This is a trend Zenslinger takes on to express that he (although he uses “we” and I am hoping he is not speaking for me OR the NYT) does “not want to go much further than it already has, especially educationally.” Zenzlinger’s paranoia that our neurologists will soon not read but be into rap battles instead is unjustified (and an insult to our medical schools).

Being an avid reader who is well-versed in the literary canons of both American and British culture, and a fan of hip-hop, I do not see the problem with taking one art form and interpreting it with another. This sentiment is emphasized exponentially when it turns the audience onto reading and writing (it can be done; see Erin Gruwell’s experience with the “Freedom Writers”). What do you think? Is Thug-Notes increasing accessibility or reducing literary works to “street language?”

Daylily A.

P.S. My epic rap-poem about John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is in pre-production. Just kidding…maybe.

P.S.S. To correct Mr. Zenzlinger, the right to rap IS protected by the Bill of Rights, Foo. See the First Ammendment and check yo’self.


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