Rethinking the essay in Literary Studies: working with, against and around ChatGPT.

Russell Smith

This semester I taught a course on Literary Theory that uses, as its primary text for analysis, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as well as a couple of films that play out the Frankenstein scenario in an AI context. Given that another key theme of Literary Theory is ‘The Death of the Author’, this course was already primed for the advent of ChatGPT. I experimented in a couple of ways: giving students the option of replacing the traditional academic essay with what I called a Creative Project, based on Ryan Cordell’s concept of the Unessay; and encouraging students to play around with ChatGPT, and to incorporate its use into their work, with appropriate documentation and reflection. Here I will report on the outcomes of these experiments, the good, the bad, and, as is often the case with ChatGPT, the meh.

PowerPoint slides