Am I Better than AI?
NPR recently reported that Ethan Mollick, a business professor at the University of Pennsylvania, claimed that “AI has basically ruined homework" (Bowman). To see if this theory holds, I prompted the AI service called “Chat GPT” with the following prompt:
write a 500 word paper about the themes and poetic techniques in "the lady of shalott"
It spent around 10 seconds “thinking,” and then typed out the following text:
"The Lady of Shalott" is a poem by the English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, first published in 1832. The poem tells the story of a cursed woman who is forced to live in a tower on an island in the middle of a river. She is only allowed to look at the world outside of her tower through a mirror, and must weave a tapestry of what she sees. However, if she ever looks directly at the outside world, she will die.
One of the main themes in the poem is the idea of confinement and isolation. The Lady of Shalott is physically confined to her tower, unable to leave or interact with the outside world. This isolation is further emphasized by the fact that she is cursed and cannot look directly at the world outside. This theme is symbolized by the tower itself, which serves as a prison for the Lady of Shalott.
Another theme in the poem is the idea of art as a form of self-expression. The Lady of Shalott uses her tapestry as a way to express her feelings about the world outside of her tower. Her tapestry is a reflection of her inner thoughts and emotions, and serves as a way for her to connect with the outside world. This theme is symbolized by the tapestry itself, which serves as a window into the Lady of Shalott's mind.
A third theme in the poem is the idea of the destructive power of love. The Lady of Shalott becomes infatuated with Sir Lancelot, a knight who passes by her tower every day. She cannot resist the temptation to look directly at him, despite knowing that it will mean her death. This theme is symbolized by Sir Lancelot himself, who serves as a reminder of the destructive power of love.
The poem also makes use of several poetic techniques to convey its themes. One such technique is imagery, which is used to create vivid and detailed descriptions of the setting, characters, and events in the poem. For example, the imagery of the tower and the tapestry serve to emphasize the themes of confinement and art as self-expression.
Another technique used in the poem is symbolism, which is used to give deeper meaning to the characters and events in the poem. For example, the tower and tapestry are symbols of the Lady of Shalott's confinement and her art, respectively. Sir Lancelot is a symbol of the destructive power of love.
The poem also makes use of personification, which is used to give human qualities to non-human objects. For example, the mirror is personified as "the silent isle" which "awoke and cried, the curse is come upon me!"
Finally, the poem also uses repetition, which is used to create a sense of inevitability and to emphasize important themes and ideas. For example, the phrase "the curse is come upon me" is repeated multiple times throughout the poem, creating a sense of inevitability and emphasizing the theme of the destructive power of love.
In conclusion, "The Lady of Shalott" is a poem that explores several themes, including confinement and isolation, art as self-expression, and the destructive power of love. The poem makes use of several poetic techniques, including imagery, symbolism, personification, and repetition, to convey these themes and create a vivid and powerful reading experience (“Chat GPT”).
I’ve spent a few hours messing around with Chat GPT, testing its knowledge on academic subjects (primarily in the fields of my majors, English and Economics). I genuinely liked the idea of college students mischievously smiling at their computer as they watch the bot whip out line after line of their long-despised English assignment, sending teachers around the country into panic. However, from what I can see of Chat GPT’s essay-writing skills, I have come to the same conclusion that I hope most college students (and teachers) would: it’s not good. In other words, given a prompt, Chat GTP cannot produce a well-crafted stylistic essay that adroitly answers the prompt. While there are serious limitations to Chat GPT’s writing abilities in its current form, it does not lack its fair share of surface-level advantages, the most obvious one being the minute amount of time it takes to generate a stream of focused paragraphs, coherent sentences, and reasonable summary around any prompted topic. The above essay, produced by Chat GPT, analyzes “The Lady of Shalott,” a poem by Alfred Tennyson, who was a 19th century Poet Laureate of the UK. After reading this essay, I conclude that Chat GPT is a terrible resource for producing academic essays (or brainstorming for them) due to its limitations in (writing) style, analysis, and credibility. Close reading, on the other hand, has been proven to be an effective tool for students writing essays due to its advantages in numerous areas such as specific analysis and commentary on the sound of a poem.
Chat GPT clearly struggles with mimicking human writing styles, which it shows through its remarkably high redundancy. For each of the three themes it identified, the AI repeats a phrase of the form “the theme is symbolized by [blank] itself, which serves as a…” every single time (“Chat GPT”). The same problem recurs when it addresses the poetic techniques—it follows the exact same structure for each one it introduces. Specifically, it repeats the phrase, “which is used to …” followed by an atrociously generalized description of the technique (“Chat GPT”). The repetition is so pervasive and unintuitive that it would clearly be looked down upon by any sophisticated human audience (and this is rather ironic because repetition is one of the things that Chat GPT attempts to analyze in “The Lady of Shalott”). If a student tried to turn this essay in as their own work, the conspicuous repetition would certainly raise the teacher’s suspicions about the essay’s authenticity and probably induce a conniption of cringing as well. Therefore, Chat GPT completely fails to produce a satisfactory essay that even remotely resembles a respectable human writing style.
In the realm of analysis, Chat GPT offers next to none. It often makes a claim, provides an example, and moves on to the next paragraph. For instance, it ends the sixth paragraph with the claim that “Sir Lancelot is a symbol of the destructive power of love” (“Chat GPT”). Although this claim is feasible, there is no explanation or significance to substantiate it. Since this is the last statement of the paragraph, the AI leaves the reader wondering about Sir Lancelot’s significance in the poem and how exactly he symbolizes the destructive power of love. Another example of absent analysis is in the third-to-last paragraph of the essay, where it mentions that the poem “makes use of personification,” provides an (incorrect) example (it claims the mirror cried “the curse is come upon me” when this was clearly said by the Lady of Shalott), and goes no further than that (“Chat GPT”). Even if this was a real case of personification, I would be interested in knowing what role personification played in the development of a theme, why the author decided to include it, or what effect it might have on a reader. Chat GPT completely disregards all of these concerns by simply moving on to the next paragraph. In contrast, a close reader would explain the evidence, show the significance of it, and in doing so, enhance their essay’s argument.
If I were to perform a close reading analysis on “The Lady of Shalott,” here’s how I might go about it: I would address the rhyme scheme by distinguishing where the poem sounds pleasant or predictable and where it doesn’t. For example, in the last stanza of the poem, I would note the ending words of three of the lines: “curiously, utterly, this is I” (Lord Tennyson). Tennyson surprises the reader here because he deliberately and drastically defies the rhyme scheme he established up to this point: “curiously,” “utterly,” and “this is I,” do not rhyme with each other while “dame,” “came,” and “name”—the words in the exact same position (in the previous stanza)—do (Lord Tennyson). Similarly, almost all other stanzas have three rhyming words ending the lines in this position. However, in the last stanza, Tennyson completely breaks the rhyming pattern to create a sense of discomfort in the reader. This discomfort accompanies the sinister picture of people finding a cadaver floating into their castle. The rhyming dissonance could mean many things, but Tennyson may have intended to show people that it’s uncomfortable to challenge society’s expectations (particularly those around women’s sexuality) or that it’s unpleasant to watch women fall prey to these expectations in reality. As this close reading analysis shows, students must use their human experiences to interpret a poem. A well-written essay speaks to the sound, feelings, and awareness that a poem evokes. Chat GPT has yet to display a recognition of these dimensions (especially rhyme scheme) and has thus revealed another area where the AI’s writing abilities fall considerably short.
Perhaps the most major concern about Chat GPT revolves around its inability to provide reliable information. For example, in the fourth paragraph, it claims that Lancelot “passes by her tower every day” (“Chat GPT”) when that is not the case—in the poem, he is simply described as riding down from Camelot once with no hint that he has ridden there before (Lord Tennyson). Also, in Chat GPT’s penultimate paragraph, it comes up with an incorrect example of repetition. It claims that the phrase, “the curse is come upon me” is “repeated multiple times throughout the poem” (“Chat GPT”), which is simply false. When attempting to identify repetition, not only did the AI come up with a blatantly wrong statement, but it also missed the obvious repetition of the phrase “the Lady of Shalott.” Only someone who has not fully understood the poem might believe the first fallacy (the one about Lancelot passing by daily), but anyone who takes a glimpse at the poem would catch second one. These examples reveal the serious limitation of Chat GPT: everything it produces needs to be verified—some errors are obvious, and others are quite subtle. In order to accurately check all of Chat GPT’s statements, students must employ close reading techniques.
While Chat GPT certainly has its flaws, the first paragraph of its essay shows that it can provide a decent account of what happened in the story—as long as the reader takes the specific details with some degree of skepticism. Also, the structure of the essay is passable. After starting with a summary of the poem, it sets up body paragraphs to answer the prompt. It uses correct grammar and sometimes even stumbles upon a correct technique the author uses. For example, it identifies a time where Tennyson used symbolism: it claims that the tower is a symbol of the Lady of Shalott’s confinement (“Chat GPT”). Here, the Chat GPT essay lacks the necessary context and analysis to establish the symbolism and ascertain its meaning, but something like this would be a good starting point for a student to expand on in their own essay. For example, one could claim that the tower confines the Lady of Shalott in the same way that society confines women; therefore, the tower symbolizes society. This interpretation, however, is quite far from the original claim that Chat GPT came up with, and takes a fair share of close reading (for one to understand both what happens in the poem and the historical context around it) to create.
I disagree with Professor Mollick—chat GPT has certainly not ruined homework, at least not in poetry analysis. As its insufficient essay about “The Lady of Shalott” has shown, Chat GPT is far from a panacea, and not just because of its redundancy. AI clearly cannot obviate our need for close reading—its consistent lack of analysis and credibility force students to perform the close reading analysis anyway. Ultimately, in its current form, Chat GPT is largely a waste of time in regard to essay generation, and close reading remains the inevitable way to get that stupid essay done.
 The elements of a poem that impact the way the poem is spoken or heard by a human. For example, the rhyme scheme and meter affect the “sound” of a poem.
Bowman, Emma. “A New AI Chatbot Might Do Your Homework for You. but It's Still Not an A+ Student.” NPR, NPR, 19 Dec. 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/12/19/1143912956/chatgpt-ai-chatbot-homework-academia.
“ChatGPT.” Chat.apps.openai.com, https://chat.apps.openai.com/.
Lord Tennyson, Alfred. “The Lady of Shalott.” Poetry Foundation. 2023, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45359/the-lady-of-shalott-1832
About the Author:
John Paul Kraus is a Junior English and Economics major at Santa Clara University. He is particularly interested in AI and it's role in academia as a tool for enhancing learning.
What to Expect at a HUB Session:
Broncos we have officially made it past the halfway mark of the Winter quarter! Whether you have already completed all of your midterms or you have more to come, have you considered visiting the HUB for any writing assignments?
At The HUB, writing partners are here to support you with any piece of writing no matter what stage of the process you are in. The HUB is a resource available to all SCU writers, but some people may be hesitant about scheduling a session not knowing what to expect during an appointment. So I am here to address some of that uncertainty by explaining what a typical session may look like.
Writing partners are here to help you in any way you need, so a session will look different for each writer and each assignment but here are a few things you can expect. To begin, we offer in-person, online synchronous, and asynchronous sessions; while these appointments may look different in practice they all operate under the same principle: we want to help writers develop as writers. Therefore HUB sessions will stray away from direct line editing in favor of a fulfilling learning experience for the writer. Here are some techniques you might expect in a session!
HUB sessions often thrive on questions. Since it is our goal to help you grow as a writer we will answer any questions you may have and will ask you questions about your content and processes. These open-ended questions are designed to help you think through your writing and develop skills for future writing.
Writing Partners will often encourage you to read sections of your work out loud or read it out loud themselves. Doing this often helps writers notice little flow or phrasing issues. This is entirely dependent on your comfort level; a writing partner will never make you do something you are not comfortable with or that you think won’t add to your learning experience!
Some writing partners will encourage you to reflect on your own writing and your main concerns. This is intended to help you recognize why you feel concerned about certain aspects of your writing or to notice what you are doing well.
In nearly every session, writing partners will praise well-crafted aspects of your writing. Writing is hard work, and we recognize that, so writing partners will be sure to praise your stellar writing.
Although these are typical techniques of HUB sessions, we are here to help you. Whether you just need another pair of eyes on your writing before you turn it in or need support in creating an outline, writing partners will be able to facilitate a meaningful experience centered around your writing.
Schedule an appointment with a Writing Partner Sundays through Thursdays between 4 PM and 10 PM.
About the Author:
Anne Johnson is a senior writing partner who began working at the HUB in Fall 2022. She is an English major who loves all things about writing and wants to help you find enjoyment in it too. She is also involved with the campus newspaper The Santa Clara, as a news writer.
Hello beautiful SCU writers!!!
It’s week 5 of Winter quarter, and as we’re getting into the thick of it I have a friendly reminder for you: the HUB Writing Center is a resource for YOU!
The HUB has skilled writers who are ready to help with various writing assignments, including those pesky CORE requirements you may not have finished. Writing partners are also ready and able to help you figure out how to format your resumes, job applications, grad school applications, research papers, critical thinking essays, etc.
Come check out the HUB Writing Center anytime Sunday to Thursday from 4pm to 10pm. We’re located in the lower level of the SCU library, near the computer stations. We take walk-ins and scheduled appointments (although, I recommend scheduling ahead of time so you’re guaranteed a session).
Don’t believe me? Schedule an appointment here today and find out just how helpful the writing partners can be!
About the author:
Lady Elizabeth, a junior at SCU who majors in psychology, has worked at the Writing Center since fall 2021. She is passionate about learning and helping others, whether it be with writing or in any other area.
As writing partners, we sometimes have writers stop by the HUB to ask “How can I improve my writing in general?”
Though one of our first suggestions is – “Visit The HUB!” – we’ve got a few other suggestions for you as well. Some of these tips you can do on your own, some are collaborative, but all of them are ones many writers have used.
So have a look to see what you might want to try:
Realize that writing is a social action.
(You’re never really writing alone!)
Realize you can learn a lot from your own past writing.
Woo-hoo! You did it!
Whether this was your first year of college or last, congratulations on making it through another school year. The HUB has loved getting to know all of our brilliant writers (both on Zoom and in-person), and we thank you for helping us create a safe space on campus to learn and grow. If you need any writing help this summer, the HUB will be open for select hours. Our usual online resources are always available as well.
We hope everyone has a safe, rejuvenating summer. And, for our seniors, best wishes on all your future endeavors. Keep writing!
As always, thanks for everyone's submissions! Hopefully these will bring some smiles to your faces.
If wine is Jesus's blood and bread is Jesus's body, then the food at Benson must be Jesus's ingrown toenail.
-- Sam Smith
My friend, who's a double major in CS and music, has his birthday coming up, so I asked him what he wanted. Unhelpfully, he said "a new keyboard".
-- Bryce Klassen
As the remaining waking breaths left his body, the Alzheimer's patient Dewey Needham was finally able to recognize the loving faces of his dear friends and family who were standing right beside him. With the EKG monitor beeping faster and faster, Mr. Needham realized he had one remaining breath, so he let out a final spine piercing, blood-curling scream, as he was suddenly hit with the horror that his family would soon discover his uncleared browser history.
-- Liam Llerena
Have a Good Spring Break!
Finals got you down? It’s okay because… Spring Break is just around the corner! Starting Friday 3/18, the HUB will be closed for Spring Break and Week One of Spring Quarter. You can find us back in the library for in-person tutoring on Sunday 4/3. As always, if you need any writing help over the break, check out some of our past blog posts, the HUB’s online resources, or the writing resource fan-favorite – Purdue Owl.
Congratulations on making it through another quarter, and enjoy your time off!
The Best Writing Spots on Campus
Hey everyone! With the quarter coming to a close, many of you will be busy writing final papers for your classes. In order to keep your writing environment fresh, here are 5 great places on campus to write your papers!
Five excellent places to wrtie papers on campus – in no particular order :)
These are just a few of the great places to write papers on campus. Feel free to explore these and to find your own! If you have any personal favorite spots to write papers on campus that you don’t see mentioned above, feel free to leave a comment and share it so that others can explore too :)
Anyways, you should get back to that paper: it’s certainly not going to write itself (I wish). Good luck with finals week!
About the Author:
Nate Metz '23 (he/his) is an English and History double major. He loves all types of reading and writing (especially creative writing) and in addition to working as a Writing Partner at The HUB, he is involved with the University Honors Program, the LEAD Scholars Program, and the Santa Clara Review.
With finals happening within the next few weeks, I think it’s best we start to figure out how you can be successful. Whether you have a final project or an actual test, stay tuned as I’ll provide you with 5 helpful tips so you can be successful during finals week, confident in your studies, and ready to pass the class!
1. Get To Work Earlier Rather Than Later
It doesn’t matter if it’s a group project or studying for a final test, I recommend you start working immediately (if you haven’t already). When you look at successful people, they don’t wait until the last minute, so why should you?
"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
- Benjamin Franklin.
“Preparation doesn’t assure victory, it assures confidence.”
- Amit Kalantri, “Wealth of Words”
For those working within a group, I recommend you have a group chat beyond email, because not everyone checks their emails. You can either create a shared calendar, with specific events so everyone knows when things should be done, and what days to meet; or you can create calendar events and share them with everyone else.
2. Take Advantage of Office Hours
I bet you all know the importance of going to class: you can learn more on the material, etc. But have you considered going to office hours? This is the time where you can engage with the professor one-on-one or group-to-professor to truly have all your questions answered. Not only will the professor’s expectations become clear, but your needs from the class can also be addressed.
3. Split Up the Time of Study
When you focus so much on one material, your brain becomes overwhelmed, and mentally you get exhausted. I want you to be successful, so I recommend you set a time limit on how much time is spent on a given subject/project. Then take a break, have a snack, before getting back to work. Following the pomodoro method your productivity will slowly but surely increase.
*For group work, not only should you split up the responsibilities amongst the team, but you should also have different deadlines for smaller parts of the assignment, so everyone won’t be stressed out completing the entire project in one night.
4. Practice Interactive Studying
Many students “study” by only rereading notes and textbooks. Sure this is “studying” but it’s not the most effective, studying. You should be testing your mind, so try flashcards or creating test questions for yourself and/or peers. This way you’re truly testing your knowledge. I also recommend trying practice exams if possible, or using quizlet (they have a bunch of interactive studying options).
*Study groups can be helpful, just make sure you’re actually working (not playing the whole time).
5. Expand Your Study Environments
Psychological studies have shown that studying in different environments helps improve memory… so go outside and study in the park, or a nice area within the library, don’t limit yourself.
Have fun studying!
About the Author:
Lady Elizabeth, a sophomore at SCU who majors in psychology, has worked at the Writing Center since fall 2021. She is passionate about learning and helping others, whether it be with writing or in any other area.
We had a great time reading everyone's submissions! Thanks to all the writers who sent in their work!
He opened the door, and, with the arrangement of flowers in her hands, she asked, "Are irises and lilies still your favorite flowers?" He looked back at the withering bouquet on his coffee table and, smiling, confirmed, "I think they always will be."
-- Jacqueline Ramirez
I can’t take my eyes off the handsome man in the water. I think his name is also Narcissus.
-- Fiona Sundy
With another dumb Valentine’s Day comes another dumb gushy-mushy-shove-our-stupid-love-in-your-face social media feed to scroll through. God, I wish that were me.
-- Isa Sanchez Flores
He began to think about all of the memories they shared over the past three years and in that moment, Jason finally decided who he wanted to be his valentine as he gazed deeply into Maria’s eyes. His heart fluttered, and though the butterflies in his stomach were flapping faster than he could think, he was finally able to muster up the courage to say, “I wanted to ask if your friend Maya is single, because she’s so hot.”
-- Ryan Delahoussaye