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Using AI to gauge reader response to literary narratives


The project aims to contribute to the development of the Ethical and Theoretical AI Lab by using AI-based online surveys to gain insights into reader response to ethical and philosophical issues raised in literary narratives. In particular, the project aims to shed light on how AI-based online surveys can code and compare responses to structured and open-ended questions in ways that facilitate analysis and enhance understanding about reception of gay novels that draw on different discourses to raise ethical and philosophical issues (e.g. concerning AIDS, decadence, perversion and persecution). The project also aims to illuminate the specific ways in which human intervention is essential to interpreting AI-based online surveys on reader response to literary narratives. The project builds on previous work on the empirical study of literary response (e.g. Marshall 2000) in order to develop a method for exploring reader response to specific literary narratives as part of an attempt to understand the wider reception and cultural significance of the narratives under study. To achieve this end, the project will adapt the widely used Literary Response Questionnaire (an instrument developed by Miall and Kuiken (1995) to measure seven major aspects of readers’ orientation towards literary texts, i.e. insight, empathy, imagery vividness, leisure escape, concern with author, story-driven reading, and rejection of literary values) so as to address readers’ values, beliefs and attitudes concerning issues raised by the literary narratives under study. To facilitate data collection and statistical analysis, the project will use Survey Monkey, SPSS24 and, where appropriate, other AI-based instruments. A small number of gay novels translated into Chinese will be selected as samples of literary narratives which draw on scientific, moral and political discourses on homosexuality (such as those identified by Foucault 1990 and Sedgwick 1990) to raise ethical and philosophical issues that may have implications on understanding of homosexuality in modern China, which has seen a shift from relative tolerance to repression and persecution in the post-1949 period (see, for example, Ma 2003). The student is expected to design and carry out a small-scale pilot online survey, and to give a presentation about the findings and observations.

Required skills

The student should have analytical and close reading skills and some basic familiarity with online surveys.

Principal Investigator


Dr Yau

Dr. Wai Ping Yau

Associate Professor,
Department of Translation, Interpreting and Intercultural Studies




Dr. Siu

Dr. Sai Cheong Siu (External)

Associate Professor,
School of Translation and Foreign Languages,
The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong