Artificial intelligence sheds new light on classic texts

The system used artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to unearth a trove of surprising insights. For example, they found that evil sorcery often took place close to Catholic monasteries. This made a certain amount of sense since Catholic sites in Denmark were tarred with diabolical associations after the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. By plotting the distance and direction of witchcraft relative to the storyteller’s location, WitchHunter also showed that enchantresses tend to be found within the local community, much closer to home than other kinds of threats.

Could an algorithm today generate and improve upon Propp’s narrative functions? In his AI dissertation at MIT, the computer scientist Mark Finlayson built a system that drew on an annotated English translation of Propp’s Russian corpus. He discovered several new narrative plot structures – finding, for example, that kidnapping, seizing and tormenting are the hallmarks of Proppian villainy.

Read more about this topic here: When robots read books

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