The employ of digital applications on literary and cultural contents has several consequences. Among them, one of the most interesting process born from the combination of Twitter and literature is the so-called twitterature (title of a book written by Aciman and Rensin in 2009, which described one peculiar employment of Twitter). In the Italian context, the start-up TwLetteratura developed a methodology that allows Twitter users to engage in participatory social reading projects. Each user reads the text and comments it by tweeting summaries, by quoting a sentence, or even by comparing the text with pictures or videos. Moreover, each user follows a well-defined timetable that mirrors the structure of the book: participants read and comment a chapter during a defined range of days; after this range expires, they move to the following chapter, and so on until the end of the book.
I will analyze some of the tweets and twylls published during TwLetteratura projects, focused on famous Italian texts, to demonstrate that this methodology is a form of active reception of the literary text, which redefines the reception theory as developed by Hans Robert Jauss and Wolfgang Iser, the most important member of the Costance School. As the two scholars wrote, the reader is actively engaged with a text in filling the blanks that characterize its structure (a concept later examined, under a semantic point of view, by Umberto Eco). TwLetteratura’s projects emphasize the participation of the reader by allowing him to express a written reaction to the text. The social nature of the web apps embeds all these written reactions (tweets and twylls) into a new environment, which constitutes a second layer of the original text: at this level, each reader becomes author of a new message, but at the same time, this second layer of the text lacks the esthetic autonomy of the original text.
With my paper, I will examine these projects in order to define them as new approaches to a literary content that mixes the roles of authors and readers by putting them into a new social dimension. They are not new literary practice but, at the same time, they rely on literary traditional practices and roles.