By Despina Kakoudaki
By interpreting quite a lot of literary texts and movies (including episodes from Twilight Zone, the fiction of Philip okay. Dick, Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never permit Me pass, city, The Golem, Frankenstein, The Terminator, Iron guy, Blade Runner, and that i, Robot), and going again to alchemy and to Aristotle’s Physics and De Anima, she tracks 4 foundational narrative components during this centuries-old discourse— the myth of the substitute delivery, the delusion of the mechanical physique, the tendency to symbolize synthetic humans as slaves, and the translation of artificiality as an existential trope. What unifies those investigations is the go back of all 4 components to the query of what constitutes the human.
This concentrated method of the subject of the synthetic, developed, or mechanical individual permits us to re-evaluate the production of man-made life. by means of concentrating on their ancient provenance and textual versatility, Kakoudaki elucidates synthetic people’s major cultural functionality, that's the political and existential negotiation of what it ability to be a person.
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Extra resources for Anatomy of a robot : literature, cinema, and the cultural work of artificial people
Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) and Fritz (Dwight Frye) orchestrate the animation of the monster (Boris Karloff), in Frankenstein ( James Whale, 1931). © Universal Pictures While it may seem inevitable that a historical account of artificial people should begin with Frankenstein, the text functions as both origin and limit. 3 Despite its technological trappings, the representation of the artificial birth is in fact rooted in a transhistorical conceptual vocabulary: Shelley’s depiction of animation is consistent with an array of premodern animating scenes found in origin stories and cosmological myths, in literary texts that reference ancient ritual patterns, and in medieval and early Renaissance scientific and pseudo-scientific fantasies.
We need to exit the realm of the scale of imitation and consider it as an epistemological model whose power is fast diminishing. The conceptual travel kit we need in this transhistorical exploration contains a number of warnings and suggestions. Consider the importance of motion in premodern descriptions of aliveness. Consider the structuring presence of objects without necessarily resorting to readings of gothic and uncanny effects. Consider the possibility that the Romantic/gothic model is currently under much needed revision, partly inspired by the return of pre-nineteenth-century interests in materiality, presence, complexity, texture, and allegory.
It seems to me that despite many overdone readings of their meaning, we sometimes ignore the performative capabilities and material presence of objects. While it is difficult to imagine the impact of a particular texture on audiences, we 22 A n ato my of a Robot Figure 5 “The Lady Musician,” a famous musical automaton by Henry-Louis Jaquet-Droz, made in 1774. Inv. No AA1. © Musée d’art et d’histoire, Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Photo S. Iori should avoid resorting to stereotypes, about the whiteness and coldness of marble, for instance.