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Wednesday Talk: April 3, 2024, 2-4 pm on Zoom [an extra, zoom-only session]

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April 3 @ 2:30 pm - 4:00 pm

Speaker: Rafaël Newman, Comparative Literature, Zurich

Title: “The Work of Art in the Age of Neural Machine Translation”

Abstract: “But the instant the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic production, the total function of art is reversed. Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice – politics.” Can Walter Benjamin’s formulation be applied to the latest developments in artificial intelligence, ChatGPT foremost among them, especially as it is used to create texts, both “everyday” and para-literary, and thus to challenge the “purity” of art? My focus will be on one particular iteration of AI, neural machine translation or NMT, since that is what I use in my “everyday” work but rigorously eschew for the translation of poetry I practice on the side. I will also set Benjamin against Orwell, whose remarks a decade later on poetry’s political accommodation with fascism continue to trouble me.

Bio: Rafaël Newman studied classical philology at the University of Toronto and comparative literature at Princeton University, where he earned his doctorate. He is the author of The Visible God: Staging the History of Money (UPA, 1999) and the editor of Zweifache Eigenheit: Neuere jüdische Literatur in der Schweiz (Limmat Verlag, 2001), which appeared in English as Contemporary Jewish Writing in Switzerland: An Anthology (UNP, 2002). His poems and translations may be found in print and online periodicals, most recently in Live Long Enough (Paekakariki, 2017), and on two CDs: We Are The NewMen (EyeMix, 2008) and Everything Is Good (EyeMix, 2010). He also publishes regularly on Bestiaire Intime, a polyglot poetry collective. His essays on literature and contemporary culture, in English, French, and German, have appeared in journals and collections in Germany, New Zealand, Poland, Switzerland, and the United States, and he contributes a monthly column to 3 Quarks Daily, an aggregator of writing on science, the arts, philosophy, politics, and literature. Rafaël Newman lives and works in Zurich as a writer, translator, moderator, and dramaturge with Besuch der Lieder, an association of classical musicians performing private house recitals of 19th-century art song.

The link to register is  https://forms.office.com/r/sEzrSAjrXL

The deadline to register is the Monday before the event at noon.  The Zoom link will be sent to registrants only.


April 3
2:30 pm - 4:00 pm
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