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Virtual Class: “Virtual Sonnets”

November 16, 2009

You are not required to do this work during class time nor to use the Early Modern Center. It is available for you, only during class time, if you would *like* to use it. You are also not required to turn in any work in conjunction with this virtual class, although I will expect you to take notes and be prepared for discussion.

For today’s class, your challenge is to do some serious, critical thinking about the sonnet as pastiche.  Specifically, you’ll be looking at digital sonnet generators to consider questions of form, theme, and composition.

Focus on these three sites (but you are encouraged to dig about on the web for more):

A Billion Godawful Sonnets

[“NEW! Now with improved pentameter lines!”]

http://www.fibitz.com/sonnets/sonnets.html

This example mentions Raymond Queneau (whom you’re reading for Thursday’s class) as its inspiration.

  • Read the page in full.
  • Refresh at least 3 times to read and generate at least 3 sonnets.  Please highlight and copy each sonnet into a document that you can print out and bring to class on Thursday.
  • Do these sonnets “make sense”? What do they have in common with the others we’ve read for this class?
  • This generator mentions a glitch that produces a “false sonnet.” Are such sonnets any more “false” than the ones generated without the glitch?

The Shakespearean Blank Verse Sonnet Generator

http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~dsteinbr/computing/fun/sonnets.rb

This example emphasizes meter over rhyme.

  • Read the page in full.
  • Refresh at least 3 times to read and generate at least 3 sonnets.  Please highlight and copy each sonnet into a document that you can print out and bring to class on Thursday.
  • Are these sonnets, in fact,  “utter nonsense”?  If so, what is their appeal? What do they have in common with the others we’ve read for this class?
  • What does the emphasis on meter over rhyme say about the sonnet form?
  • What is the effect of the “Shakespearean-sounding words” and  what does that phrase mean?

Sonnet Generator (Shakespeare / Millay)

http://positdesign.com/2009/portfolio/animation-multimedia/sonnet-generator/

This example is a result of ActionScript experiments.  In other words, it is born of computer science rather than creative writing.

  • Read the page in full. Be sure to click the “?” for details on the main frame.
  • You will probably have trouble copying and pasting from this page.  As best you can, transcribe (type or write out) at least one of the sonnets you generate by clicking “compose sonnet.” “Compose” at least 3 sonnets.
  • Do these sonnets make sense?
  • What does this generator suggest about the relationship between Shakespeare and Millay?  Do these sonnets suggest anything about the themes of sonnets over time?
  • How does it compare to the other generators in aims, objectives, and outputs?

Summing Up….

Might you consider the sonnets generated in these sites to be digital ephemera?  Or, do they, in contrast, have staying power?  That is, do they have permanence or significance in a context beyond random generation?  Could they be socially exchanged in the same way as other sonnets?  What do they suggest about the actual composition of sonnets?

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