When literature collides with a new media technology, the resulting works are often dismissed as frivolous, opportunistic, or trivial. But this critical instinct often neglects the influence of media ecologies on the forms and contexts of literature, and on the many works of interest arising from such collisions.
Literary engagements with social media have varied in success and imagination. The most compelling have relied on a formal or conceptual deployment of the medium that encourages the reader to reflect on fundamental questions about literature and poetics.
The unselfconscious and spontaneous use of Twitter for literary ends has undoubtedly Romantic precedents: where today can we find a more appropriate repository for the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”? But literature on social media also presents echoes of other formalist movements: the Oulipian value of constraint, the Projectivists’ organic and processual aesthetics.
This paper examines the complex and multifaceted intersections of social media and contemporary authorship, arguing for critical consideration of the role of Twitter and other social media in different modes of authorship and literary production. My analysis focuses, in particular, on the remediation of social media posts in the printed poetry of the Alt Lit movement (notably, by Tao Lin and Mira Gonzalez), and views their adaptation of the verse line to the constraints of the tweet in the context of contemporary and historical theory about the poetic line.