A Podcast Exploring the Wit and Weirdness of Medieval Texts

MDT Ep. 105: Concerning the Voice of the Golem

We kick of 2024 with a look at humanity’s attempts to recreate itself, first with a dip into the legends of the Golem of Prague, and then an extended discussion of the role of AI in the future of medieval studies and particularly this show.

Today’s Texts:

  • Eleazar of Worms, Commentary on Sefer Yezirah, fol. 15d. In Moshe Idel. Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions on the Artificial Anthropoid. State University of New York Press, 1990.
  • Letter from Christoph Arnold to Johann Christoph Wagenseil, printed in Wagenseil’s Sota, Hoc est: Liber Mischnicus De Uxore Adulterii Suspecta, Altdorf,1674, pp. 1152-1234. Munich Digitization Center, digitale-sammlungen.de/en/view/bsb11215591
  • [Anonymous golem-making text from MS Cambridge, Add. 647, fol. 18a.] In Moshe Idel. Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions on the Artificial Anthropoid. State University of New York Press, 1990.
  • Phillippson, Gustav. “Der Golem.” Schoschanim: Ein Blick indie Vergangenheit. M. Poppelauer’s Buchhandlung, 1871, pp. 77-81. Google Books.
  • Tendlau, Abraham M. “Der Golem des Hogh-Rabbi-Löb.” Das Buch der Sagen und Legenden jüdischer Vorzeit, J. F. Cast’schen, 1842, pp. 16-18. Google Books.
  • Tendlau, Adam. “Der Golem des Hoch-Rabbi-Löb.” 1842. In Hans Ludwig Held, Das Gespenst Des Golem, Allgemeine Verlagsanstalt München, 1927, pp 41-44. Google Books.
  • William of Malmesbury. Chronicle of the Kings of England. Edited by J.A. Giles, translated by John Sharpe and J.A. Giles, George Bell & Sons, 1895. Google Books.


Image by DALL-E 2.


  1. Kale

    This was a great episode. I’m fairly anti AI myself. I never use it and I don’t intend to. The biggest concern I have (at least in the short term) is just not being able to tell what is real on the internet. Like those voices you used on the show, I’m not sure I would identify those as fake without you saying that they were. As long as folks are upfront (as you obviously are) then I don’t mind AI being used, especially for translation stuff. Just wanted to share my two cents.

    Also I enjoyed the golem story quite a bit. It made me remember an episode of X-Files where someone erased the first letter in that Emet word to defeat a golem. I kinda thought the show just made that up.

    • Patrick

      Thanks for your comment! I definitely remember that X-Files episode, though I haven’t seen it in ages (there’s as a good pseudo-golem episode involving a tulpa made out of landfill garbage). The rate of acceleration for AI getting better at producing more realistic recreations of real things — in photos, in audio, and in video — is pretty eye-popping, and I’m just waiting for the first major bona fide “fake news” item where lots of people are taken in by a fake event. The royal family photos thing was getting close, but it would not surprise me if this year sees someone accused of a crime based on AI-generated evidence or a public panic over a fictional terror incident or something serious along those lines.

  2. Derrick Pohl

    Great episode on AI! Thx for sharing your experience in such detail. One question: can the AI you were experimenting with solve logic puzzles, like the books of one page mysteries for the reader to solve? Or would it give a wrong answer expressed in exactly the way a human would give the corrrect answer? How would it respond to being told it’s wrong?

  3. Derrick Pohl

    Better question: what did it know about you? Did its answers sound exactly like an undergraduate essay because you’re a college prof? Or have a college email address?

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