Words of the Week: ChatGPT Returns

As you may recall, a couple of weeks ago I shared with you the result of a little experiment: ChatGPT’s response when prompted to design a syllabus for a course titled “Contemporary Jewish Short Stories,” which is, in fact, the title of a course that I am scheduled to begin teaching at the end of August.

Since comments on that post continue to come in (some of them on the post’s page, some on Twitter, and some privately), I thought that there might be interest in the results of a second experiment—when I asked ChatGPT for a list of recommended readings for a course on contemporary Jewish short stories. (Readings, alas, were not included on ChatGPT’s “original” syllabus.)

Below you’ll find what ChatGPT came up with.

Here are some recommended readings for a course on contemporary Jewish short stories:

  1. “The Shawl” by Cynthia Ozick
  2. “The Conversion of the Jews” by Philip Roth
  3. “Yiddishland” by Jonathan Safran Foer
  4. “The Last of the Just” by André Schwarz-Bart
  5. “The Dybbuk and Other Writings” by S. Ansky
  6. “The Collected Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer” by Isaac Bashevis Singer
  7. “Gimpel the Fool and Other Stories” by Isaac Bashevis Singer
  8. “The Assistant” by Bernard Malamud
  9. “The Magic Barrel” by Bernard Malamud
  10. “The Stories of Eva Luna” by Isabel Allende
  11. “A Temporary Matter” by Jhumpa Lahiri
  12. “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” by Michael Chabon
  13. “The Puttermesser Papers” by Cynthia Ozick
  14. “The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust” by Edith Hahn Beer
  15. “Badenheim 1939” by Aharon Appelfeld

These stories offer a diverse range of perspectives on Jewish identity, history, and culture. They explore themes such as the Holocaust, assimilation, tradition, and the complexities of modern Jewish life. Each author brings their unique style and voice to their narratives, providing a rich tapestry of contemporary Jewish literature.

Suffice to say that ChatGPT may need some refining when it comes to defining both “contemporary” and “short stories.” (Not to mention better linkage between the readings and the promises offered in its own syllabus!)

Another observation: Although I’ve read multiple books by Isabel Allende, I haven’t read The Stories of Eva Luna—have any of you read it, and does it feature Jewish material? I’ve also read many books by Jhumpa Lahiri, but since I couldn’t recall “A Temporary Matter,” I looked it up and read (or reread?) it. It was published in The New Yorker in 1998. It is a powerful, brutal story—but it is not “Jewish.”

Plus, of course, ChatGPT has clearly not received the “#NameTheTranslator” memo!

Additional reactions?

an assortment of screens: laptop, phone, tablet, plus other desk items, and a text label that reads, "Words of the Week"

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