An end-of-the-month round-up of links that lead to interesting things happening in the world of literature and pop culture.
- “Soon, a wide readership formed and her posthumous fame grew, nourished by the stories people passed around. After a gregarious girlhood, it was said, Dickinson had gradually become a near-total recluse, known around Amherst as “the myth.” Children boasted of catching a glimpse of her at an upstairs window. Some thought she was a mystic. Later readers assumed that she was in love with Susan. Lyndall Gordon, a recent biographer, argued that Dickinson was epileptic and feared suffering one of her seizures in public. You can find support for any of these theories, and many others, in the poems; their quirks, though evened out by her early editors, nevertheless lend credence to the idea that she was a familiar New England stereotype, the flighty, eccentric, proto-spinster daughter.” |
“Emily Dickinson’s Singular Scrap Poetry: On letters, envelopes, and chocolate wrappers, the poet wrote lines that transcend the printed page” – via The New Yorker
- “Take a quick glance at the annals of literature and you can find madness in bucketloads: Hemingway undergoing painful electroconvulsive treatment, Robert Lowell’s stint in McLean Hospital, David Foster Wallace’s post-suicide canonization, Virginia Woolf with her pockets stuffed full of stones. Suffering can seem like a vital ingredient in the production of great art. But “madness”, in the terms dictated by this rich literary history, bears no real relation to the objective reality of mental illness. The day to day business of mental illness is hard, boring and unrewarding, and though it can certainly provide benefits – increased empathy for other people’s pain, an ability to withstand intense periods of suffering – it rarely offers profound revelations about the human condition.” |
“The Literary Glamour of Madness” – via The Times Literary Supplement
- “Computer science isn’t as far removed from the study of literature as you might think. Most contemporary applications of AI consist of sophisticated methods for learning patterns, often through the creation of labels for large, unwieldy data-sets based on structures that emerge from within the data itself. Similarly, not so long ago, examining the form and structure of a work was a central focus of literary scholarship. The ‘structuralist’ strand of literary theory tends to deploy close – sometimes microscopic – readings of a text to see how it functions, almost like a closed system. This is broadly known as a ‘formal’ mode of literary interpretation, in contrast to more historical or contextual ways of reading. The so-called ‘cultural’ turn in literary studies since the 1970s, with its debt to postmodern understandings of the relationship between power and narrative, has pushed the field away from such systematic, semi-mechanistic ways of analysing texts. AI remains concerned with formal patterns, but can nonetheless illuminate key aspects of narrative, including time, space, characters and plot.” |
“When Robots Read Books” – via Aeon