[ONLINE] - When Dickinson and Beowulf Meet TikTok


Some purists have been scandalized by Maria Dahvana Headley’s new translation of Beowulf, which takes the Old English classic and modernizes it with feminism and social media slang—think “hashtag: blessed” and opening the whole thing with “Bro.” Meanwhile, in Alena Smith’s Dickinson on Apple TV, the famous 19th century poet Emily and her peers forgo the expected formality of the era in favor of swearing and saying “What up, girl?”

In lesser hands, both projects might come across as a little “rapping middle school English teacher,” but instead, they highlight the very real ways social media is transforming language. What can Beowulf, Dickinson, and other attempts to bring an informal modernity to the words of yore tell us about where language is heading next? Join us for the first installment of Predictive Text, a new Future Tense series hosted by famed internet linguist Gretchen McCulloch, where we’ll discuss how the past, present, and future of language collide.


Maria Dahvana Headley, @MARIADAHVANA
Author of Beowulf: A New Translation

Alena Smith, @internetalena
Creator and showrunner of Dickinson

Gretchen McCulloch, @GretchenAMcC
Internet Linguist
Author of Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language

Follow the conversation online using #PredictiveText and by following @FutureTenseNow