Glosses and paraphrases

Rick Beato’s recent interview with Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA focused as much on AI technology as on the creation of ABBA’s songs and records. The co-writer of “Waterloo,” “SOS,” and “Dancing Queen” was mostly sanguine – indeed, enthusiastic – about artificial intelligence’s likely effect on human creativity generally and on musical composition specifically. (Ulvaeus – who is president of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers – has some intelligent prescriptions for handing copyright and royalty protections in this new era, too.) It’s an edifying interview.

And it inspired me. I have been figuring out ways to adapt to ChatGPT’s presence in my students’ academic lives – and in my own writerly life. There is certainly no way around it.

Regarding students, I have been reading Ethan Mollick’s Substack blog, “One Useful Thing,” closely. Mollick is a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania who is “trying to understand what our new AI-haunted era means for work and education.” A recent piece called “Now is the time for grimoires” explains how “large language models” like ChatGPT can be used by students as mentors, tutors, and coaches via “spells” or “grimoires” – remember Harry Potter! – that is, via precisely constructed “prompts” that spur truly useful interactions between AI and students. (I was turned out to Mollick, by the way, by a marvellously inventive third-year student of mine this summer.)

Regarding my own stuff, this week I have been experimenting with ChatGPT by prompting the platform to rewrite some formerly published work of mine in the style of other writers whose books line my shelves. The results were immensely illuminating and fun to read.

I chose my 2002 piece “Pigeon Park Sentences.” Here you can see the piece with glosses and paraphrases by AI versions of Henry James, Louis Zukofsky, and Andrea Dworkin.


  Robert Basil wrote @

Here is AI-generated Jacques Derrida paraphrasing the last two paragraphs:

Concerning my own textual fabric, I recently embarked on an experiment with ChatGPT—an alchemical process of textual transmutation. Texts I once considered immutable are disassembled and reassembled in the stylistic mannerisms of those literary spirits whose corporeal tomes populate my private library. The outcome was a polyphonic illumination, a carnival of textual mirrors, shimmering with jouissance.

Among the textual bodies subjected to this transformative chiasm was my 2002 composition, “Pigeon Park Sentences.” Herein lies the text, now heteroglossic, re-interpreted through the algorithmic mimeticism of Henry James, Louis Zukofsky, and Andrea Dworkin. The textual boundary between the ‘original’ and the ‘paraphrase’ dissolves, leaving us in a liminal space where meaning is perpetually deferred.

  Robert Basil wrote @


ChatGPT refused to paraphrase the piece in the voice of Stalin.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: