Gone are the days when high school kids who couldn’t wade through the 350 pages of Pride and Prejudice at least had to skim through 50 pages of cliff notes. 60second Recap offers to tear out the plot, symbols, motifs, and themes from classic works of literature (I imagine the books lying limply on the ground, spines broken after being ravaged by a yellow hi-liter) and cheerily distill them in the language of the youth: the 60 second video clip:
“We’re all forced to read them in school so we can get good grades so we can go to a good college so we can get a good job so we can forget all about that literature they used to force us to read so we could get good grades.
The 60second Recap™ aims to break this cycle of canonical irrelevance. We want to help teens (yes, teens of all ages!) engage with literature. We want to help them see it not as some chore to be endured, but as—dare we say it?—the gift of a lifetime. How? Through the language of our time—the language of video. Video that’s focused, engaging, informative . . . and short enough to hold just about anyone’s attention.
Smirk if you must. Consider this yet another mile-marker on civilization’s road to perdition. But here’s the fact: You won’t get non-readers to read by forcing them to read more. You’ll get them to read by opening their eyes to the marvels awaiting them between the covers of that homework assignment.”
Here’s the teaser trailer for Pride and Prejudice:
If that is Elizabeth Bennet in the 21st century, I do consider this yet another mile marker on civilization’s road to perdition.
Each book gets ten 60 second videos where the unflaggingly energetic Jenny Sawyer (USA Today calls her “the smartest kid in your English class” and “the big sister you’re just dying to talk to before class “because you just did not get the symbols in this book.”) bounces about the screen, juggling props and cracking jokes in an effort to keep kids watching—the first ten seconds of each video is spent trying to convince the viewer to tune in for the remaining 50 seconds.
I admire Ms. Sawyer’s command of literature but I doubt the effects of this method. The motifs and themes of a great play or novel take their force from being imbedded in the work. Ripped out and paraded across the screen in blinking bright letters, the words “deceit” “romance” and “fate” will not draw anyone to actually read Hamlet or Pride and Prejudice or Romeo and Juliet. And hitting kids over the head with symbols and driving home the relevance of literature to their every day lives takes away the unique pleasure of the poetic: the recognition of reality in what you are reading.