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EVALD – a Pioneer Application for Automated Essay Scoring in Czech

Abstract

In the paper, we present EVALD applications (Evaluator of Discourse) for automated essay scoring. EVALD is the first tool of this type for Czech. It evaluates texts written by both native and non-native speakers of Czech. We describe first the history and the present in the automatic essay scoring, which is illustrated by examples of systems for other languages, mainly for English. Then we focus on the methodology of creating the EVALD applications and describe datasets used for testing as well as supervised training that EVALD builds on. Furthermore, we analyze in detail a sample of newly acquired language data – texts written by non-native speakers reaching the threshold level of the Czech language acquisition required e.g. for the permanent residence in the Czech Republic – and we focus on linguistic differences between the available text levels. We present the feature set used by EVALD and – based on the analysis – we extend it with new spelling features. Finally, we evaluate the overall performance of various variants of EVALD and provide the analysis of collected results.

Open access
Replacing Linguists with Dummies: A Serious Need for Trivial Baselines in Multi-Task Neural Machine Translation

Abstract

Recent developments in machine translation experiment with the idea that a model can improve the translation quality by performing multiple tasks, e.g., translating from source to target and also labeling each source word with syntactic information. The intuition is that the network would generalize knowledge over the multiple tasks, improving the translation performance, especially in low resource conditions. We devised an experiment that casts doubt on this intuition. We perform similar experiments in both multi-decoder and interleaving setups that label each target word either with a syntactic tag or a completely random tag. Surprisingly, we show that the model performs nearly as well on uncorrelated random tags as on true syntactic tags. We hint some possible explanations of this behavior.

The main message from our article is that experimental results with deep neural networks should always be complemented with trivial baselines to document that the observed gain is not due to some unrelated properties of the system or training effects. True confidence in where the gains come from will probably remain problematic anyway.

Open access
Aesthetic Universals in Neil Gaiman’s Post-Postmodern Mythmaking

Abstract

Aesthetic theory, as reflected in both contemporary cognitive (Patrick Colm Hogan) and more traditional structuralist criticism (H.G. Widdowson), points to the dynamics between familiarity and surprise as the driving force behind the pleasure we derive from reading fiction. This paper explains how Neil Gaiman’s works, particularly his novel Neverwhere, utilize genre expectations and reinvent mythologies in order to captivate audiences in the current age of unprecedented access to information and a rather superficial intertextuality. The paper draws on Brian Attebery’s analyses of the literature of the fantastic to place Gaiman within the context of both modernist and postmodernist legacies, while proposing that his works could be best understood as representative of the current cultural paradigm, sometimes labelled as the pseudo-modern or post-postmodernism. The discussion of the shifting paradigm is used as a backdrop for the scrutiny of the devices employed in Gaiman’s writing: the pre-modern focus on storytelling, prototypicality, modernist “mythic principle”, postmodernist textual strategies, and utilization of current technologies and mass-communication media.

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Alienation and Character Typology in African American and Native American Narratives: A Jungian Reading of The Bluest Eye and Winter in the Blood

Abstract

Alienation is a recurring literary subject in the United States. Its peculiarity is occasioned by the phenomenon of racial segregation, among others, with which the society is characterized. Thus, considerable critical attention has been given to the causes as well as the attendant socio-political, economic and psychological imports on the victims. From a psychological perspective, specifically, this paper engages in a comparative analysis of the effects of alienation on characters of African American and Native American origins produced by the same system in two novels which have African American and Native American roots – Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and James Welch’s Winter in the Blood, respectively. In order to understand the variance and/or convergence in the personality formations of the African American and Native American characters in the narratives, consequent upon the racially alienating system, the paper adopts Carl Jung’s psychological theory of personality typology, labelled introversion and extraversion, with a view to assessing how, typically, persons of these origins are more likely to react to the socio-political, cultural and economic situations affecting them as minority ethnic groups in the United States.

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A Bond Stronger Than Marriage: Discipleship in the Works of Christopher Isherwood

Abstract

This paper is concerned with Christopher Isherwood’s portrayal of his guru-disciple relationship with Swami Prabhavananda, situating it in the tradition of discipleship, which dates back to antiquity. It discusses Isherwood’s (auto)biographical works as records of his spiritual journey, influenced by his guru. The main focus of the study is My Guru and His Disciple, a memoir of the author and his spiritual master, which is one of Isherwood’s lesser-known books. The paper attempts to examine the way in which a commemorative portrait of the guru, suggested by the title, is incorporated into an account of Isherwood’s own spiritual development. It discusses the sources of Isherwood’s initial prejudice against religion, as well as his journey towards embracing it. It also analyses the facets of Isherwood and Prabhavananda’s guru-disciple relationship, which went beyond a purely religious arrangement. Moreover, the paper examines the relationship between homosexuality and religion and intellectualism and religion, the role of E. M. Forster as Isherwood’s secular guru, the question of colonial prejudice, as well as the reception of Isherwood’s conversion to Vedanta and his religious works.

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Early Modern Cultural Hybridity: Bartholomew Fair as a Heterotopia of Hamlet

Abstract

As a contribution to the discussion of Shakespeare’s “appropriability” (Stanley Cavell), this paper examines some aspects of the cultural position of Hamlet on the Jacobean entertainment market, as they are indicated in Ben Jonson’s comedy Bartholomew Fair (1614). The metatheatrical features of Bartholomew Fair may be said to measure the play’s resistance against appropriating the unique and problematic aspects of Hamlet, such as the Ghost or The Mousetrap. These are deconstructed in Jonson’s comedy, which anticipates the Enlightenment views of the social functioning of theatre as a “moral institution”.

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“I am rather strong on Voyages and Cannibalism”: The other Dickens and other Victorians in Richard Flanagan’s Wanting

Abstract

This paper analyses Richard Flanagan’s novel Wanting (2008) as a narrative informed by a revisionary and critical attitude to nineteenth-century ideologies, which is common to, and, indeed, stereotypical in much neo-Victorian fiction. Drawing on the biographies of two eminent Victorians: Charles Dickens and Sir John Franklin, Flanagan constructs their fictional counterparts as split between a respectable, public persona and a dark, inner self. While all the Victorian characters are represented as “other” than their public image, the focus in the novel, and in this paper, is on Dickens’s struggle to reconcile social propriety with his personal discontent. Flanagan represents this conflict through Dickens’s response to the allegations that starving survivors of Franklin’s ill-fated Arctic expedition resorted to cannibalism. The zeal with which the Victorian writer refuted such reports reveals his own difficulty in living up to social and moral norms. The paper argues that the main link between the different narrative strands in the novel is the challenge they collectively pose to the distinction between the notions of civilization and savagery.

Open access
On Writer’s Block: The Reflection of Lacanian Post-Structuralist Psychoanalysis in Paul Auster’s Oracle Night

Abstract

This paper deals with the reflection of Lacanian post-structuralist psychoanalysis in Paul Auster’s novel Oracle Night, with respect to the phenomenon of writer’s block. The paper argues that Auster’s novel is remarkably synchronized with the theoretical perspectives proposed by the noted psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan, as the root of his protagonist’s inability to write is linked to the medium of written discourse, and the obstacles which the protagonist of his story faces are thus put within the confines of the protagonist’s psyche. Writer’s block is thus being examined with respect to the Lacanian concept known as the chain of signification, as it is much more noticeable in writers because their primary conduit for describing the exterior and interior world is discourse in its written form. Auster exceptionally mirrors Lacan’s view of a writer’s psyche and vividly explores the foundation of the inability to write with respect to the symbolic realm of human experience.

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Remediating Joyce’s Techno-Poetics: Mark Amerika, Kenneth Goldsmith, Mark Z. Danielewski

Abstract

This paper attempts to evaluate the legacy of James Joyce’s avant-gardism for the literary experimentation of Mark Amerika, Kenneth Goldsmith, and Mark Z. Danielewski, three contemporary American writers and artists, working a hundred years after the first of Joyce’s crucial four “shocks of the new” shook the foundations of fiction. In doing so, the paper attempts to bridge the divide between the historical avant-garde and the neo-avant-garde as defined by Renato Poggioli and Peter Bürger, and regarded disparagingly by critics like Robert Hughes. Positing a threefold legacy of Joyce’s “revolution of the word” in its treatment of writing as trace, forgery, and idiom, the paper discusses Amerika’s Grammatron, Goldsmith’s uncreative writing, and Danielewski’s House of Leaves as continuing in and expanding on the achievements of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. This they achieve by pursuing what Marjorie Perloff has termed “differential poetics” and N. Katherine Hayles has rethought as “Assemblage” – two poetic strategies dominant at the beginning of the 21st century.

Open access
A Shadow of Truth: Honor Klein in Iris Murdoch’s A Severed Head

Abstract

Iris Murdoch’s novel A Severed Head (1961) is an example of convoluted relationships that may appear hilarious upon superficial analysis. A close reading, however, reveals the suffering triggered by the behaviour of the central characters. The most mysterious female protagonist, the sexually ambivalent Honor Klein, deploys a wide range of possible interpretations. Honor’s powerful figure is like an axis around which the rest of the characters rotate and without whom the plot would fall apart. The question is, nonetheless, if she is a real figure or not. This paper argues that this pivotal character is not a real person but a dreamy and ghostly concentration of elements in relation to the protagonist Martin Lynch-Gibbon. Honor Klein is a force, is suspicion, and fear, and seems to be an external projection of Martin’s subconscious imaginary fears and trauma. She has a similar narrative function as Shakespeare‘s ghosts in, e.g., Macbeth, Hamlet and Julius Caesar.

Open access