The Past and Future of Writing

Welcome to the new academic year, alive, kicking and reading. As you will so often be told, it’s really important in any A Level subject that you read around and explore beyond the boundaries of the curriculum; these posts are designed to help you do that. Perhaps they will provoke, even occasionally inspire, but I hope they will at least prompt you into some further journeys.

So here we go for the start of the year:

In the 1580s, a couple living in Henley Street, Stratford, had three children:
Susanna, then Hamnet and Judith, who were twins.
The boy, Hamnet, died in 1596, aged eleven.
Four years or so later, the father wrote a play called Hamlet.

You may well recognise which literary figure those lines refer to; indeed, I hope you do. They are lines from the beginning of a recently published novel which never names that father directly, but fictionalises the short life of Hamnet. That novel is Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, which as an imaginative exploration of that family, giving a strong sense of what life was life in a Midlands town in the Elizabethan age. It’s the winner of a number of awards and a novel you might like to read to expand your general cultural knowledge of a crucial time and crucial writer. let me know if you read it, and what you think.

Keep an eye on good newspapers or their websites, as they often make useful recommendations, not only of contemporary writing, but of older texts too. Take a look at this piece, which promotes Edith Wharton’s classic about early twentieth century New York society:

We are used to analysing text, considering carefully the effects of writers’ choices, with the assumption that the author has laboured over every article and adjective. But what if writing can be produced by different means? What if Artificial Intelligence started writing? How much would depend on the programming? You might find this piece fascinating:

That’s quite a different view from ways we would normally interpret writing, especially poetry. Compare that with this Ted talk:


That in turn might be compared with this, which I have recommended before, about a year ago, but which bears repetition: