THOMAS Hardy’s Return of the Native is happy-sad-happy-neutral-happy. James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist is first happy, then extremely sad, then a bit happy, then neutral. And Moby Dick has a similar plot, emotion-wise, to a 1990s pulp crime novel: The Australian

An English professor has identified the six basic plots of our literary canon. But unlike other English professors who have claimed similar feats, he has done so through quantitative analysis of more than 40,000 novels.

Matthew Jockers, from Stanford University, uses computer programming to gain insights into literature. His program, Syuzhet, looks for the emotional content of texts, and records how it changes over time. What he found was that there appeared to be only a few natural plot archetypes.

The bestselling surgeon-author talks about the limits of medicine, our view of death, and battles over taste with the editor of the New Yorker: The Guardian

Atul Gawande

‘I’d like to reach the point in my career when I’m not just a physician-writer, where my writing is simply writing’ … Atul Gawande. Photograph: Susannah Ireland/Eyevine

Back in the mid 1980s when he was an undergraduate at Stanford University in California, Atul Gawande took a literature class. “I did a terrible job. I got my lowest grade.” Later, as a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College, Oxford, he had a rude awakening after reading aloud his weekly essay to his tutor. “I didn’t know how to write. It was too flabby, too verbose. It was covering up the fact that my thinking was not clear. My entire goal while I was at Oxford was to be able to successfully read an essay without the professor stopping me and saying, ‘I cannot stand this any more. Can you just stop?'”