Recent links of note:
Cuba’s lack of literature
Nick Caistor, The Times Literary Supplement
Yesterday, writers in Havana kicked off the twenty-seventh “International Book Fair,” an eleven-day festival aimed at promoting literature and international exchange within Cuba. This year, Cuba has chosen China as its “guest of honor,” and more than 220 Chinese intellectuals plan on traveling to Havana for the event. Despite the ostensibly open aura of the Fair, however, literary life in Cuba remains largely restricted and subject to the oppressive censorship practices of its Communist government. Whereas the bookstores that lined Calle Obispo in pre-1959 Havana used to offer diverse, international texts, now Cuban stands typically hold naught but approved paperback speeches by “Heroes of the Revolution.” Nick Caistor’s review of the state of letters in Cuba in yesterday’s Times Literary Supplement drives home the bitter irony in the naive aspirations that many creative intellectuals harbored in the 1960s for Castro’s new government.
Return of the MOOCs
Mene Ukueberuwa, City Journal
As the cost of higher education continues to climb at inordinate rates, many institutions of learning have invested resources into finding affordable alternatives to traditional universities. One such alternative is online education in the form of “Massive Open Online Courses” (MOOCs), which offer the general public free access to high-level course work but without the incentive of accreditation. Though introduced to academia with significant fanfare about seven years ago, enthusiasm for MOOCs petered off soon thereafter when it became clear that those who had most to gain from them—high-schoolers, unskilled workers, etc.—were not interested in spending their time and effort on something that offered so little tangible reward in return. But today, as Mene Ukueberuwa, a former Hilton Kramer Fellow at The New Criterion and current Assistant Editor at City Journal, writes, steps are being taken to develop a formal accreditation system for MOOCs.
The Shallowness of Google Translate
Douglas Hofstadter, The Atlantic
Despite advances in sophistication of machine translation software with the popularization of AI technology, programs like Google Translate remain limited in their capabilities to represent the nuances and subtleties of written text. In The Atlantic, Douglas Hofstadter, a professor of cognitive science and comparative literature at Indiana University Bloomington, looks into the state of translation technology and how it might impact human translators and the translation of literary works.
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