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

H/T Dr. Erica Johnson for reminding me of this fantastic passage.
Show More

Related Articles

What Do You Think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button