Literary Theory for Robots

How Computers Learned to Write

22 March 2024


In the industrial age, automation came for the shoemaker and the seamstress. Today, it has come for the writer, professor, physician, programmer and attorney

Chatbots are sure to have a significant impact on the way we read, write and think. For better or worse, they are being used to find information, influence public opinion, diagnose illness and shape political discussion online. How did we get to this point and what can we do to prepare?

Literary Theory for Robots reveals the hidden history of modern machine intelligence, taking readers on a spellbinding journey from medieval Arabic philosophy to visions of a universal language, past Hollywood fiction factories and missile defence systems trained on Russian folktales. In this provocative reflection on the shared pasts of literature and computer science, former Microsoft engineer and professor of comparative literature Dennis Yi Tenen provides crucial context for recent developments in AI, which holds important lessons for the future of human living with smart technology.


"[Literary Theory for Robots] is surprising, funny and resolutely unintimidating... Tenen has figured out how to present a web of complex ideas at human scale.  " — Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times Book Review



147 x 218 mm • 176 pages


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