In an age where young people would much rather surf the internet than pick up a book, classic literature is increasingly being seen as outdated, irrelevant and a worthless aspect of education.
Malorie Blackman’s Project Remix competition is boldly tackling this view by encouraging young people to rework literary texts, ranging from the classic to the contemporary, and the results could be truly groundbreaking. The Noughts and Crosses author, who is also the current Children’s Laureate, wants to bridge the gap between teenagers and literature in an effort to provide youths with the creative autonomy that they are so often denied by the education system.
Most teens would rather mindlessly scroll through their Facebook feed than immerse themselves in the plays of Shakespeare, and who can blame them? The rigorous banality of secondary school examination drains all the enjoyment out of reading, reducing great literary works to a handful of hastily memorised quotations and formulaic essay plans. Young people are constantly steered away from originality in order to meet the examiner’s meticulous criteria, and Blackman’s initiative attempts to eradicate this by encouraging creative freedom. Teens are encouraged to reinterpret their chosen text through the mediums of creative writing, music, film, comic strips and design, which will introduce them to alternative forms of expression that tend to be overlooked within the educational sphere. The competition implores young people to make something new instead of simply retelling a story; it puts control back into the hands of teens, allowing them to revitalize the novel form and cultivate their own creative voice.
Project Remix has the potential to show young people that classic literary texts are not all that different from contemporary life. Texts that are laden with many a ‘thy’ and ‘forsooth’ can seem daunting initially, but in terms of plot, we can draw a lot of parallels between these stories and life today. Many film producers have successfully reinterpreted texts from the past for modern audiences; the cult classic 10 Things I Hate About You is heavily influenced by Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, and more recently, the film Easy A takes a lot of its plot from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. The success of these films bodes well for Project Remix, and hopefully the competition will teach young people that great literature, no matter how old, never ceases to be relevant.
The advantages of this competition are limitless; not only does it elicit imaginative and unique expression, but it also exposes young people to a plethora of literary texts that they otherwise may have never explored. We need more schemes like this, schemes that put the excitement back into learning and encourage young people to actively engage with what they are reading. Teenagers should not be underestimated; allowing them to express themselves freely could pave the way for the next great novel.
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