Italo Calvino Foresees the Challenge of Using Computers to Analyze Literature
A warning, duly noted
I have been making the case that computer science belongs in English classrooms–in this keynote, this book, and this online community. Trust that I do so with these words from Italo Calvino very much on my mind:
Now, every time I write a word, I see it spun around by the electronic brain, ranked according to its frequency, next to other words whose identity I cannot know, and so I wonder how many times I have used it, I feel the whole responsibility of writing weigh on those isolated syllables, I try to imagine what conclusions can be drawn from the fact that I have used this word once or fifty times. Maybe it would be better for me to erase it…. But whatever other word I try to use seems unable to withstand the test…. Perhaps instead of a book I could write lists of words, in alphabetical order, an avalanche of isolated words which expresses that truth I still do not know, and from which the computer, reversing its program, could construct the book, my book.
– If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler
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