A digital agora to discuss European literature
A recent survey by the European Council on Foreign Relations shows that European citizens think Europe has been almost irrelevant in handling the Coronavirus crisis and that a larger cooperation at a European level is needed to face future crisis. In order to revive a European culture of solidarity between citizens from different nations, it is important to act at a deeper level, fostering the awareness of core values defining the European identity as a whole.
Given that the European cultural identity is based on diversity, literature and reading are perfect to enhance the awareness of solidarity as a form of respect and inclusion towards different cultures and identities. This is the reasoning behind Twitteratura’s application to our Culture of Solidarity Fund. We interviewed Antonella Cavallo, president of the association, to find out more about their project: “Social Reading Hugs Europe”.
Antonella, born in Turin and graduated in history of the Italian language, has for thirty years been involved in the conception, organization, promotion and communication of cultural events. Amongst many other cultural initiatives, she organised the conference “Albania questa sconosciuta: scrittori tra due sponde”, which brought together writers from Italia and Albania, and she curated the Special Projects of the Turin International Book Fair.
Associazione culturale Twitteratura is a non-profit organisation, based in Piedmont, promoting social reading through the TwLetteratura method and its own webapp Betwyll. Social reading is the practice of commenting on literature through digital devices. Readers of all ages can read and comment on cultural contents, combining deep reading with social networking. Their social reading method was recognized as a good practice in the white paper Promoting Reading in the Digital Environment, published by the European Commission. The learning app Betwyll was certified as a quality pedagogical solution by Education Alliance Finland.
Through the project Social Reading Hugs Europe they want to further develop – in English and at a European level – three social reading initiatives they previously carried out in Italy to address the urgency of reflecting collectively upon the European cultural heritage and identity. In 2016 they read and commented on Primo Levi’s The Truce with 129 classes from 51 schools all over Italy to discuss the refugee crisis; in 2018 they commented on The Ventotene Manifesto in two rounds with 150 classes from 92 schools to recall the foundations of the European Union as a way to deal with current global challenges; in 2019 with the project Eutopia Dystopia, they combined social reading and immersive performance, involving 80 classes from 74 different cities.
The project Social Reading Hugs Europe entails a digital call-to-action targeting European teachers, asking them to involve their students in a five-week continent-wide social reading session taking place in 2021. The participants will comment on ten short passages of literature representing European cultural heritage as a whole. The social reading session, which will take place in English on the social reading app Betwyll, will be addressed mainly to high school students, but will be open to anyone to join.
During the Covid emergency, having a digital solution to integrate traditional didactic proved to be an asset to support home-learning, allowing classes to keep working and stay connected despite the forced isolation. The lockdown showed that social interaction is essential for the emotional and cognitive growth and well-being of people. Literature can be of enormous support in times of crisis: it has always been a space of encounter, traditionally between writer and reader, offering solace and company, inspiration and answers.
Betwyll becomes the digital equivalent of the agora – a space for dialogue and exchange, where people can find and rediscover the dimension of the civitas that is key to the European culture and democracy. These literature-generated virtual interactions offer continuous links to personal experiences, current events and global challenges that can be collectively explored from an unusual, often enlightening perspective. Moreover, the project encouraged face-to-face occasions of encounter, once the emergency situation will be over.
The focus on the multicultural European identity underlines the cross-national, pan-European nature of the project and has the power to consolidate the relationships with a European network.
Social reading as a practice develops audience engagement and make students and citizens active in sharing opinions and ideas beyond the social bubble of mainstream social networks.
“The project was born precisely to move the debate from national to transnational: engaging students and citizens from all over Europe in an indirect discussion on European identity, activated and mediated by the power of literature,” tells us Antonella, “Literature becomes our common European home and through literature and the love for reading, Europe becomes a space for everyone.”
Granted: 10000 euros