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Can a computer carry out sophisticated literary analysis?


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The researcher said that using such analysis can allow society to analyze literature in a larger way than ever before.

“Traditionally, literary history was done by studying a relative handful of texts,” Jockers told the Times. “What this technology does is let you see the big picture – the context in which a writer worked – on a scale we’ve never seen before.”

The computer also uncovered patterns in the writings of George Eliot that are similar to the patterns in writing of male authors. Jockers says he uses algorithms that search for patterns in words and common themes.

But can a computer ever reason on the same level as a human when it comes to literary analysis, a field where there is often more than one right answer?

Jockers told The New York Times that his algorithms can’t work on their own – analysis is only complete when there’s someone who has knowledge of literature overseeing the process.

“You’ll always need both,” he said. “But we’re at a moment now when there is much greater acceptance of these methods than in the past. There will come a time when this kind of analysis is just part of the tool kit in the humanities, as in every other discipline.”

What do you think? Could a literary expert and computer working in tandem analyze books to an extent that has never before been possible? Or will human beings always have the edge when it comes to matters literary?


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