Hello all! This past fall I spent a great deal of time working on a project for an English class called Medieval Proof in which I set out to build a text generating recurrent neural network with the goal of generating “literature.” It so happened that as I was doing this ChatGPT exploded in popularity and has begun to raise all sorts of ethical questions. As a physics/math/CS nerd just the challenge alone was motivation enough, but as someone for whom literature is a mainstay of life, this particular problem–that is, can a machine ever write literature–has a special importance because I believe it allows us to investigate the nature of literature. Moreover, it is crucial to explore the implications of the technology that I along with others doing similar work am helping to bring into the world.
In his play Hamlet, William Shakespeare deliberately presents the ghost of King Hamlet as mostly a just apparition; however, there do exist some potentially ambiguous or otherwise “evil” characteristics of the ghost that tinge its apparent purity.
In Tom Stoppard’s play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, the titular characters Rosencrantz (Ros) and Guildenstern (Guil) experience what Palestinian American literary theorist and cultural critic Edward Said termed an “unhealable rift.” Ros and Guil struggle through the play over the dichotomy between reality and illusion, never quite coming to understand the difference therein. They experience an exile of essence, an irreconcilable schism between existence and identity: their lack of purpose degrades them to mere pawns whose absurd, tragic end arrives despite any attempt to subvert fate.
I feel a strange, warm wind in the air. I smell the first golden furze blossoms. I hear the vanguard of the lapwings returning to the whinstone-lined hills. Winter, I believe, is ending.
You are my love, my life, my soul. We are like the rocks of Penistone Crags: inseparable, the threads of our souls intertwined beyond the workings of any mortal. Our love is the sea in all its uncontainable beauty, passion, and wildness. And yet, you chose Edgar Linton — a feeble lamb whose entire capacity for love could barely fill a bucket — for a husband over me. Poor Edgar could not even bear a few teaspoons of our love.
Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights is a novel built upon the foundations of two interconnected and interdependent stories, each chiefly concerned with a different generation of the Earnshaw, Linton, and Heathcliff families; the stories effectively form two halves of the novel, and the lives and experiences of the characters therein mesh deeply in the very soul of the work. To thus disregard the second half of the novel vouchsafes the fate of Milo; to neglect the evolution of the remainder of the work is to tear Wuthering Heights from the center, to split the rocks of Penistone Crags, and to sunder Heathcliff from his Catherine and Catherine from her Heathcliff. The themes of ignorance versus education, religion versus spirituality, and revenge versus love interact and develop through the second half of the novel, cultivating Hareton’s intellect and nobility, tempering Catherine Junior’s naive mockery and disdain, and extinguishing Heathcliff’s all-consuming drive for retribution to enable a denouement of wholesome character metamorphoses and ultimately a sense of redemption over the sins of prior generations.