Sometimes a Test is Just a Test

Here’s an essay I composed in about 10 minutes using ChatGPT. I imagined myself as a student of average intelligence and moderate ambition in another program taking an English class (e.g., a STEM student completing a humanities requirement) who had been given a take-home essay assignment (about 2000 words) about The Great Gatsby. Actually, the essay question could be even more open than that and the student may have chosen the novel. I imagine the student has attended maybe a few classes and, of course, has access to the course syllabus, hence the ability to prompt AI to discuss Freud and postmodernism. Do note, however, that the (perfectly sensible) reference to Wayne Booth (a hero here at Inframethdology) was completely unprompted.

Here are the prompts in order (I used GPT-4). I simply arranged the output (unedited) in the right order at the end.

  1. I need a summary of the plot of The Great Gatsby. About 500 words.
  2. Can you add a reflection on this that interprets this in Freudian terms, sourcing it with APA style references?
  3. Can you bring this a little more up-to-date, citing Lacan and Deleuze, and reading the book through the lens of Jameson?
  4. Assume that what you have just written are the first three main sections of essay called “Sometimes a Girl is Just a Girl”, the thesis of which is that Freudian and postmodern interpretations are pretentious nonsense and the novel is just a good story about tragic love. Write the final main section. Cite relevant literature.
  5. Please write the introduction to the essay, providing an epigraph as well.
  6. Can you collate the references in a single list?
  7. Can you come up with some evocative section headings for each of the four parts?

I also added the heading “Conclusion” and decided where to put it. That’s it. That’s all it took to produce what you see below in, like I say, under fifteen minutes. If you need a better reason to abandon the take-home essay, please explain in the comments. Do ask yourself whether your concerns couldn’t be addressed by ChatGPT given another hour or so of work. And do notice whatever the student may have learned from your course will have had very little influence on the product you are reading.

Please note also that the text was produced in 7 steps. If you had required periodic submissions of component parts of the process, ChatGPT could obviously have been used to produce any number of drafts at any stage of completion.

"Sometimes a Girl is Just a Girl": The Enduring Appeal of The Great Gatsby as a Tragic Love Story

"Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope." - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby, published in 1925, has captivated readers for nearly a century with its tale of unrequited love and the pursuit of the American Dream. While the novel has been the subject of extensive analysis and interpretation through various theoretical lenses, such as Freudian psychoanalysis, Lacanian theory, Deleuzian philosophy, and Jamesonian Marxism, its lasting appeal may lie in its simple, yet powerful portrayal of tragic love. This essay, titled "Sometimes a Girl is Just a Girl," argues that the complexity and depth of these theoretical frameworks, while intriguing, may detract from the novel's core narrative and its ability to resonate with readers on an emotional level.

The first section of the essay provides a brief summary of the plot of The Great Gatsby, emphasizing its themes of love, betrayal, and the passage of time. The second section delves into a Freudian interpretation of the novel, exploring the characters' actions and motivations through the lens of psychoanalysis. The third section extends the analysis to postmodern perspectives, incorporating the ideas of Lacan, Deleuze, and Jameson to further dissect the novel's themes and characters. The fourth and final section argues that these complex theoretical frameworks, while valuable, risk overshadowing the novel's emotional core, which is centered around the tragic love story between Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan. By focusing on this aspect of the novel, readers can derive meaning and enjoyment without resorting to pretentious academic analysis.

The epigraph, taken from The Great Gatsby itself, serves as a reminder of the importance of reserving judgment and maintaining hope, as well as a gentle nudge to approach the novel with an open mind. Ultimately, this essay contends that while it is possible to analyze The Great Gatsby through various theoretical lenses, its enduring appeal lies in its timeless portrayal of love and the human experience, transcending the confines of academic interpretation.

Unraveling the Enigmatic Love Story

The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a classic American novel set in the Roaring Twenties, an era marked by wealth, excess, and decadence. The story is narrated by Nick Carraway, a young man from the Midwest who moves to Long Island's West Egg, a fictional community inhabited by newly rich individuals. Nick rents a modest home next to the opulent mansion of the enigmatic and fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby.

Jay Gatsby, born James Gatz, is a mysterious figure who throws extravagant parties, attracting the who's who of New York society. Although Gatsby is known for his wealth and lavish lifestyle, little is known about his origins or how he acquired his fortune. Nick, intrigued by his enigmatic neighbor, eventually befriends Gatsby and learns of his undying love for Daisy Buchanan, Nick's beautiful cousin, and Gatsby's former flame. Daisy is married to the wealthy, arrogant, and unfaithful Tom Buchanan, who resides in the more prestigious East Egg.

The novel unfolds as Gatsby's desire to reunite with Daisy consumes him. He uses Nick as a means to facilitate a meeting between the two. Gatsby has spent years amassing his wealth and creating an illusion of grandeur, all in the hopes of winning Daisy back. When they finally reunite, Daisy is initially enchanted by Gatsby's newfound success, and the two begin an affair.

As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that Gatsby's wealth is not from legitimate sources but rather from criminal activities, including bootlegging during Prohibition. Gatsby's criminal connections and shady past are revealed, further complicating his pursuit of Daisy. Meanwhile, Tom Buchanan, Daisy's husband, becomes suspicious of Gatsby and begins investigating him.

In a climactic confrontation, Tom exposes Gatsby's criminal past to Daisy, shattering the illusion that Gatsby had worked so hard to create. Daisy, now torn between her love for Gatsby and her loyalty to her husband, ultimately chooses to stay with Tom. This devastating realization leaves Gatsby emotionally shattered.

In the aftermath of this confrontation, Myrtle Wilson, Tom's mistress, is accidentally killed in a hit-and-run accident involving Gatsby's car. Although Daisy was the one driving, Gatsby decides to take the blame for her actions. Myrtle's distraught husband, George Wilson, believes Gatsby to be the culprit and, fueled by his desire for vengeance, murders Gatsby before taking his own life.

Following Gatsby's tragic death, Nick is left to reflect on the superficiality and moral decay of the people surrounding him. Disillusioned by the shallow and materialistic values of the wealthy, Nick decides to leave the East Coast and return to his Midwestern roots. He is haunted by the memory of Gatsby, a man who ultimately sacrificed everything for a love that was unattainable.

The Great Gatsby is a cautionary tale about the disillusionment of the American Dream and the consequences of unchecked materialism and moral decay. Through the tragic life of Jay Gatsby, Fitzgerald offers a scathing critique of the Roaring Twenties and its excesses, ultimately revealing the emptiness behind the glitz and glamour of the era.

Delving into the Depths of Freudian Intricacy

The Great Gatsby can be analyzed through a Freudian lens, drawing upon Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theories. Freudian theory encompasses various concepts, including the tripartite model of the psyche (id, ego, and superego), the Oedipus complex, and defense mechanisms (Freud, 1923).

One could argue that the characters in The Great Gatsby exemplify Freud's id, ego, and superego model. Gatsby's relentless pursuit of Daisy and wealth represents the id, driven by pleasure and desire (Freud, 1923). Daisy, in her indecisiveness and ultimate loyalty to her husband, can be seen as the ego, mediating between the id's desires and the superego's moral constraints. Tom Buchanan, with his adherence to societal norms and disdain for Gatsby's lower-class origins, embodies the superego, reinforcing the novel's broader critique of the American upper class's moral decay.

The novel also explores the theme of repression, a key aspect of Freudian psychoanalysis. Gatsby's decision to reinvent himself as a wealthy, sophisticated individual can be interpreted as a form of repression of his true self, James Gatz (Freud, 1915). This repression may stem from a desire to escape his humble beginnings and become someone worthy of Daisy's love. However, as Freud posited, repressed emotions and memories can manifest in maladaptive ways (Freud, 1915). For Gatsby, his repressed past eventually leads to his tragic downfall.

Another Freudian concept that can be applied to The Great Gatsby is the Oedipus complex. This theory suggests that children experience a subconscious desire for the opposite-sex parent and rivalry with the same-sex parent (Freud, 1899). While the novel does not explicitly explore parent-child relationships, Gatsby's pursuit of Daisy can be seen as an attempt to attain an idealized, maternal figure that he may have lacked in his own life. Daisy's eventual rejection of Gatsby may symbolize the resolution of the Oedipus complex, where Gatsby must ultimately confront his own desires and limitations.

In conclusion, a Freudian interpretation of The Great Gatsby reveals the novel's exploration of the unconscious mind, human desire, and the complex nature of human relationships. The characters' actions and motivations can be understood through the lens of Freudian psychoanalysis, providing a deeper understanding of the novel's themes and messages.

Venturing into the Postmodern Labyrinth

The Great Gatsby can also be analyzed through the lenses of Jacques Lacan, Gilles Deleuze, and Fredric Jameson, offering alternative interpretations that explore identity, desire, and the socio-economic context of the novel.

Lacanian psychoanalysis, an extension of Freudian theory, emphasizes the role of language and the Symbolic order in shaping human identity (Lacan, 2006). Gatsby's transformation from James Gatz into Jay Gatsby can be understood as an attempt to enter the Symbolic order and adopt an identity that grants him access to the world of wealth and privilege. Gatsby's desire for Daisy, in this context, can be seen as a desire for the unattainable "objet petit a" – an object that promises ultimate fulfillment but can never be attained (Lacan, 1977). This reading highlights the illusory nature of Gatsby's quest and the impossibility of attaining his desires.

Deleuze's philosophy, particularly his concept of "desiring-production," can also be applied to The Great Gatsby (Deleuze & Guattari, 1983). Desiring-production posits that desire is a productive force that constantly generates new connections and relationships. In the novel, Gatsby's desire for Daisy drives him to accumulate wealth, create an elaborate persona, and form relationships with various characters. However, Gatsby's pursuit of Daisy ultimately leads to his destruction, illustrating the paradoxical nature of desire and its potential for both creation and destruction.

Fredric Jameson's Marxist analysis of literature offers another perspective on The Great Gatsby (Jameson, 1981). Through this lens, the novel can be understood as a critique of capitalism and the American Dream. The characters' obsession with wealth, status, and material possessions reflects the commodification of human relationships and the erosion of traditional values. Gatsby's tragic fate can be seen as a consequence of his entanglement in the capitalist system, which perpetuates an unattainable ideal of success and happiness. Additionally, the novel's portrayal of social stratification and the superficiality of the upper class resonates with Jameson's theory of "late capitalism" and its effects on society (Jameson, 1991).

In conclusion, analyzing The Great Gatsby through the lenses of Lacan, Deleuze, and Jameson offers a more contemporary and multifaceted understanding of the novel. These perspectives illuminate the complex interplay between identity, desire, and socio-economic context, revealing the deeper implications of Gatsby's tragic pursuit of wealth and love.

The Art of Heartache - The Timeless Appeal of Tragic Love

While Freudian and postmodern interpretations of The Great Gatsby offer intriguing perspectives on the novel's themes and characters, it is important not to lose sight of the story's central narrative: a tragic love story. Fitzgerald's masterful storytelling and the timeless appeal of star-crossed lovers should not be overshadowed by complex theoretical frameworks. The novel's enduring popularity may be attributed to its ability to resonate with readers on an emotional level, transcending academic analysis.

The Great Gatsby's portrayal of unrequited love and its devastating consequences is reminiscent of classic romantic tragedies such as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (1597) and Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights (1847). The novel's focus on the power of love to both elevate and destroy individuals has captivated readers for generations. Gatsby's unwavering devotion to Daisy and his eventual demise due to his love for her serve as a cautionary tale about the potentially destructive nature of love.

Furthermore, the novel's exploration of themes such as betrayal, disillusionment, and the passage of time transcends cultural and historical boundaries, making it universally relatable. The heart-wrenching scene where Gatsby realizes that his dream of reuniting with Daisy is unattainable captures the human experience of lost love and longing, a sentiment that resonates with readers regardless of their familiarity with Freudian or postmodern theories.

Booth (1988) argues that literature should be appreciated for its capacity to evoke empathy and emotion, rather than being solely analyzed through theoretical lenses. By focusing on the novel's emotional core and the captivating love story at its center, readers can derive meaning and enjoyment from The Great Gatsby without resorting to pretentious theoretical frameworks. In this sense, the novel's enduring appeal lies in its ability to connect with readers on a deeply emotional level, rather than in its potential for complex intellectual dissection.


The title of this essay, "Sometimes a Girl is Just a Girl," is a nod to Freud's famous remark, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar," which suggests that not everything requires deep analysis or symbolic interpretation. In the case of The Great Gatsby, it is important to remember that the novel's lasting impact on readers is due in large part to its moving portrayal of tragic love, rather than to its potential for generating intricate psychoanalytic or postmodern interpretations.

In conclusion, while Freudian and postmodern perspectives provide intriguing insights into The Great Gatsby, it is essential to remember that at its core, the novel is a timeless and poignant love story. By appreciating the novel's emotional resonance and its portrayal of tragic love, readers can connect with the story on a personal level, unencumbered by the complexities of theoretical analysis.


Booth, W. C. (1988). The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction. University of California Press.

Brontë, E. (1847). Wuthering Heights. Thomas Cautley Newby.

Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1983). Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press.

Freud, S. (1899). The Interpretation of Dreams. Hogarth Press.

Freud, S. (1915). Repression. In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 14, pp. 146-158). Hogarth Press.

Freud, S. (1923). The Ego and the Id. In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 19, pp. 12-66). Hogarth Press.

Jameson, F. (1981). The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act. Cornell University Press.

Jameson, F. (1991). Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Duke University Press.

Lacan, J. (1977). Écrits: A Selection. W. W. Norton & Company.

Lacan, J. (2006). Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English. W. W. Norton & Company.

Shakespeare, W. (1597). Romeo and Juliet. Thomas Creede.

18 thoughts on “Sometimes a Test is Just a Test

  1. Hi TB,

    Thanks for this thought experiment. I thought I’d read it as if I was marking it. I’ve been running a module where we ask students to read popular culture texts using critical org theory (Freud and Deleuze included). So I’ve used the marking criteria.

    Generally, if I was marking this, I’d think it demonstrates a 2 min YouTube level understanding of Freudian concepts and no evidence of having read any of the texts it discusses. I would guess it was written by a smart kid who didn’t come to any classes.

    It would not score particularly high marks for its discussion and application to theory but would score highly for writing and communication skills.

    Now, I’m sure you will say this is because I know it was by ChatGPT and maybe that’s true. But this looks a lot like similar work I’ve seen in the past by kids who I know didn’t come to class.

    This might be a UK specific issue, but here we are forced to mark anonymously and we don’t take account attendance or participation in a class in anyway. Often I teach small classes and have non standard assignment so I have an idea who has written which texts (I let the students chose their own pop culture text and theoretical angles). I suspect that marking essays when you know who wrote them and can sense their participation (physically and cognitively) in the class would make the reliance on ChatGPT somewhat more difficult.

    1. I appreciate the marking. Very much the sort of thing we need to be doing. You didn’t say whether it would pass. What grade would you settle on (let’s assume you suspect, rightly, that the student hadn’t attended many classes)?

      Prodded by your critique, I asked GPT (in the same chat thread) to define ego, id, and superego and explain how these concepts can be operationalized in reading literature. (I’m now assuming that the student has attended enough of your classes to know that you want the theory “discussed” and “applied”): Here’s what I got:

      Ego: The ego, according to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, is the rational and realistic part of the psyche that mediates between the instinctual desires of the id and the moral constraints of the superego. The ego operates on the reality principle, seeking to satisfy the id’s desires in a socially acceptable and realistic manner. It also serves as a buffer between the individual and the external world, employing various defense mechanisms to manage internal conflicts and cope with external stressors.

      Id: The id is the most primitive and instinctual part of the psyche in Freud’s model. It is the source of all human drives, including sexual and aggressive impulses, and operates on the pleasure principle, seeking immediate gratification of its desires. The id is present from birth and is entirely unconscious, with no regard for the consequences of its actions or the impact on others. It is the ego’s responsibility to balance the id’s demands with the constraints imposed by the superego and the realities of the external world.

      Superego: The superego, in Freudian psychoanalysis, represents the moral and ethical aspects of the psyche. It acts as the individual’s internalized moral compass and is responsible for upholding societal norms and values. The superego is divided into two components: the conscience, which punishes the ego through guilt when it fails to adhere to moral standards, and the ego ideal, which rewards the ego with feelings of pride and satisfaction when it behaves in accordance with those standards. The superego often conflicts with the id’s instinctual desires, creating internal tensions that the ego must navigate and reconcile.

      When applying Freudian concepts of ego, id, and superego to the reading of literature, readers can gain insight into characters’ motivations, conflicts, and psychological development. By examining the interactions between a character’s ego, id, and superego, readers can identify the internal struggles and desires that drive their actions and decisions, as well as the moral and ethical considerations that shape their behavior. This psychoanalytic approach can help reveal the complex layers of a character’s psyche, shedding light on the often unconscious forces that influence the narrative. By analyzing characters through the lens of Freudian theory, readers can better understand the intricacies of human behavior and the internal conflicts that arise from the interplay of instinctual drives, societal norms, and individual morality in both fictional and real-life contexts.

  2. Hi TB,

    If it was my undergraduate class, I would have marked it at between 58-62% (this is between a 2:2-2:1 on the UK scale). Not terrible at all but not exactly what I’d hope a distributed super computer could achieve.

    Conceptually, I wonder if a theory like psychoanalysis is potentially very problematic for chatgpt because it is not a stable system. This is evidenced in the definitions above. These are very simplistic descriptions of Freudian concepts that, fundamentally, misunderstand Freud’s thought as a system.

    A more consistent theory – say Marxism – might work better.

    Here’s the rub, to figure this out a student would need a fairly elaborate understanding of theory in order to know which one to ask ChatGPT to apply. In that circumstance, ChatGPT might save them the time formulating their ideas and formatting a paper but not developing their own thoughts and understanding.

    Try asking ChatGPT my actual assignment question: Use a tradition critical organization theory to analyse a popular culture text of your choice. Justify your choice of theory and choice of text.

    1. Thanks for clarifying. This confirms my sense last summer that AI would at least automate the “C”. It’s important to keep in mind that I did very little work, and a student that had attended class and done a little of the reading, would probably be able to work these 2000 words up into something much more praiseworthy in a few hours.

      Using my “manual” approach approach to writing, it would take at least 10 hours to write such an essay just once. A student who did this could still not be guaranteed a top grade.

      So I think you’re supporting the conclusion that take-home exams are dead. It would give too many students much better grades than they deserve.

      1. Sort of.

        I don’t think take home essays are dead in the same way that I didn’t think CDs would kill vinyl, e-readers kill books, nor t20 cricket kill test cricket (UK reference I know).

        I do think ChatGPT challenges us to a more reflective and imaginative deployment of take home essays.

        IMO take home essays have value (they allow students to formulate their thinking in a sustained way). But they are often used formulaically to test whether students have retained information.

        The real challenge, it seems, to me is how do we mark them to ensure authorship / the role of ChatGPT in authoring a paper.

        A viva style / practical critique of a student’s text could just as easily be the basis for a mark and this would very quickly reveal the students who relied on ChatGPT to think for them. It wouldn’t be practical in many business departments but it’s possible.

  3. I think we should assign, but not grade, take-home work. We should only give grades for work done in-person. I have suggested the ideal exam here, but imperfect variations are of course also acceptable. 😉

    I think the idea of sorting ChatGPT from student authorship via citations, declarations, or acknowledgements is ultimately unworkable. I’m working on a post about that. Should have it up early next week.

  4. “I think the idea of sorting ChatGPT from student authorship via citations, declarations, or acknowledgements is ultimately unworkable.”


    Based on the guidelines I have seen (APA, MLA etc…) my assumption is that the person who has written them have not tried using LLMs for substantive writing work. For if they had, they would not write what they write.

    Looking forward to the post!

  5. I teach academic writing for English majors in Basel, and this essay does all the things I work with my students to get them to leave behind: plot summary, mechanical summary of sections, formulaic signposting and vague phrasing rather than argumentation, and analysis of plot instead of language.

    That is, there’s no engagement with the *text* of the novel or the text of the theoretical and critical sources. There’s no engagement with *evidence*.

    In the end, it reads like a kind of mechanical, formulaic writing that my first-semester students have usually gotten beyond by their third 500-word essay at the latest. I would not give it a passing grade.

    1. Fair point. I’ll go back and imagine myself as a student who has been told to avoid these things. I’ve had pretty good success telling GPT simply to “provide evidence”, for example. And it summarized the plot because I imagined the student had been asked explicitly to do that.

      The question I have for you is: Given the way I got ChatGPT to generate this essay in ten minutes, armed with only your course syllabus and given your exam prompt, do you think a student of average intelligence could get a passing grade on your final exam in, let’s say, two hours?

    2. I gave it the first two paragraphs of the “Delving into the Depths” section and asked it simply to “provide evidence from the novel to support this analysis”. I got this:

      Gatsby’s id can be seen in his obsession with Daisy and his desire to possess her, even after she married Tom. This is evident in Gatsby’s words, “Can’t repeat the past?…Why of course you can!” (Fitzgerald, 110). Gatsby’s fixation on recreating the past with Daisy demonstrates his inability to let go of his desires, which is characteristic of the id’s relentless pursuit of pleasure.

      The ego, represented by Daisy, is evidenced in her actions and words throughout the novel. When she is forced to choose between Gatsby and Tom, Daisy is torn between her desires and her social obligations. This conflict is expressed in the scene where Daisy cries, “Oh, you want too much!…I love you now – isn’t that enough? I can’t help what’s past. I did love him once – but I loved you too” (Fitzgerald, 132). Daisy’s indecisiveness shows her struggle to balance the id’s desires with the superego’s moral constraints, exemplifying the ego’s mediating role.

      Tom Buchanan’s embodiment of the superego can be seen in his upholding of societal norms and his disdain for Gatsby’s background. He accuses Gatsby of being a bootlegger and a criminal, saying, “I found out what your ‘drug-stores’ were…He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side-street drug-stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter” (Fitzgerald, 133). By attacking Gatsby’s character and asserting his own moral superiority, Tom enforces the societal rules that govern their class, reflecting the superego’s function in maintaining social order.

      1. Lots of flat, formulaic language that sounds like an “argument” but says very little:

        can be seen, is evident, demonstrates, is characteristic of
        represented, is evidenced, is expressed, shows, exemplifying
        can be seen, reflecting

        The Buchanan paragraph has the best phrasing of its points. But there’s little connection between the claims made there and the evidence provided.

        Plus the basic idea itself (three characters, one for id, one for ego, one for superego) trivializes both psychoanalysis and the novel.

        It’s still mechanical writing that does what you ask it to do but does not even come close to doing it well.


        As for the point about “in two hours”: according to your own principles, two hours is enough to write four good paragraphs. Perhaps someone could work with LLMs for two hours and get four good paragraphs out of doing so. I doubt one could do it effectively without some understanding of the material they would have to tweak – in this case, both the novel and the psychoanalysis.

        1. Ah, but that’s two hours and without really engaging with the course thoughout the semester. My 27-minute paragraphs require the writer to know what they’re talking about.

          This is why I recommend giving students three hours to write five paragraphs on-site. Take-home exams are done.

        2. It still saddens me that you wouldn’t find this writing competence heartening in an undergraduate. I know it’s boring and “formualic”. But if it had actually come out of the mind of a student, wouldn’t it demonstrate both an awareness of the source of material, basic literacy, and ordinary, healthy intelligence?

          1. I’m reading the first set of essays now for this semester. It’s a second-semester course, and the students may still be working on how they’re doing it, but there’s so much more engagement with the material in their work than in the formulaic claptrap that is largely all I have ever seen from LLMs. Their “ordinary, healthy intelligence” shines through – and it surprises me in turn that you think the LLM-generated essay demonstrates such intelligence.

          2. There’s almost a Pierre Menard issue here. Of course, I don’t think an AI-generated essay demonstrates intelligence. But if I could be sure that it was an undergraduate student who had produced it themselves, I would take it as a demonstration of real competence. I agree that it would not demonstrate engagement.

            Also, it’s always difficult to know how to respond when people refer to their students’ work like this. I assume you have experienced your share of mediocre, unengaged students and given them their middling grades accordingly. I assume you’ve also encountered students of middling intelligence who have impressed you with their enthusiasm but have had to give the same grade that another student coasted into.

            My point is just that some students would have to work really hard to produce even this uninspired essay that ChatGPT wrote for me in 10 minutes. (Surely you admit they would have to have a little familiarity with the novel and with the theories?) A student that isn’t willing to make that effort now has the option of not doing it. IF, that is, you let them submit homework for their grade.

  6. Thomas:

    Just a quick comment. You write, “I don’t think an AI-generated essay demonstrates intelligence. But if I could be sure that it was an undergraduate student who had produced it themselves, I would take it as a demonstration of real competence.”

    I just want to point out that there’s nothing mysterious or “paradoxical” about your statement (not that you’re saying there is!). We can see the lack of paradox by switching to a weightlifting example. Suppose a machine lifts a 100-kg weight. That does not demonstrate muscular strength. But if I could be sure that it was you who lifted the rock, I would take it as a demonstration of real competence in weightlifting on your part.

      1. Indeed, Bannister ran the 4-minute mile after the car was invented, and people were still impressed!

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