Books, Venue

The power of literary memes

An integral part of how we interact and communicate on social media nowadays is through the meme format. This isn’t up for debate; in almost the same way that poetry can induce shared sentiment and a sense of community and belonging, memes spark a reaction which situates the recipient in a communal group – in this case, one linking to a shared humorous response.

A source which exemplifies the successful use of this format is the Instagram account @sparknotes_, an offshoot of the popular educational brand which initially consisted of a series of study guides and aimed to help students in their understanding of literature, poetry and drama. SparkNotes was not the instigator of this upsurge in promoting and sharing literary content through the meme format but rather they capitalised upon a pre-existing market. They have steered the movement to promote an understanding of classical texts through a modern lens; for example, a recent post depicts Nick from the TV show ‘New Girl’ saying “hey ladies, you guys wanna see a grown man cry?” with an added comment above reading ‘Hamlet’s flirting strategy’.

An established company such as SparkNotes jumping on this trend indicates its success in promoting literature in a unique way. It seizes upon the communal spirit invoked through the meme format, and encourages its viewer, perhaps stumbling upon it while scrolling through Instagram, to go and read ‘Hamlet’ for themselves, in order to resonate with their parody.

If anything, this phenomenon really establishes how important reading is, and how even the more classical and historical texts hold a similar thread to the media-based entertainment we engage with more frequently today. We see ourselves and the people we know in the books we read, and the comfort this provides extends to the community which is formed around them.


About Author

Eleanor Burleigh

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September 2021
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