The Automaton in English Renaissance Literature  book cover
1st Edition

The Automaton in English Renaissance Literature

Edited By

Wendy Beth Hyman

ISBN 9781138262195
Published November 15, 2016 by Routledge
222 Pages

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Book Description

The Automaton in English Renaissance Literature features original essays exploring the automaton-from animated statue to anthropomorphized machine-in the poetry, prose, and drama of England in the 16th and 17th centuries. Addressing the history and significance of the living machine in early modern literature, the collection places literary automata of the period within their larger aesthetic, historical, philosophical, and scientific contexts. While no single theory or perspective conscribes the volume, taken as a whole the collection helps correct an assumption that frequently emerges from a post-Enlightenment perspective: that these animated beings are by definition exemplars of the new science, or that they point necessarily to man's triumphant relationship to technology. On the contrary, automata in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries seem only partly and sporadically to function as embodiments of an emerging mechanistic or materialist worldview. Renaissance automata were just as likely not to confirm for viewers a hypothesis about the man-machine. Instead, these essays show, automata were often a source of wonder, suggestive of magic, proof of the uncannily animating effect of poetry-indeed, just as likely to unsettle the divide between man and divinity as that between man and matter.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction, Wendy Beth Hyman; Part 1 Creations, Creatures, and Origins: Descartes avec Milton: the automata in the garden, Scott Maisano; 'To me comes a creature': recognition, agency, and the properties of character in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, Justin Kolb; Antique myth, early modern mechanism: the secret history of Spenser's Iron Man, Lynsey McCulloch. Part 2 Motion: Orpheus and the poetic animation of the natural world, Leah Knight; The mechanical saint: early modern devotion and the language of automation, Brooke Conti; Arrow, acrobat, and phoenix: on sense and motion in English civic pageantry, Michael Witmore. Part 3 Performance and Deception: 'More than art': clockwork automata, the extemporizing actor, and the Brazen Head in Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, Todd Andrew Borlik; 'Mathematical experiments of long silver pipes'; the early modern figure of the mechanical bird, Wendy Beth Hyman; Desire, nature, and automata in the bower of bliss, Nick Davis; Bibliography; Index.

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Wendy Beth Hyman is an assistant professor of English at Oberlin College, USA.


'An exciting collection...the essays cover a stimulating and appealing range of topics, nationalities, major and minor texts, approaches, and subject is particularly nice to see essays here that pursue representations of automata in literature conceived more broadly than as representations of real-world machinery or attitudes to technology only, the focus of much critical literature to date. This is a welcome expansion and reorientation of our ideas about the issues raised by early modern automata.' Lara Bovilsky, University of Oregon, USA and author of Barbarous Play: Race on the English Renaissance Stage. '... contains several worthy contributions...' Renaissance Quarterly 'The essays collected here offer refreshing insights into the occurrence of automata in early modern literature and culture... the collection brings new insight into the texts and phenomena through this frame of reference of automation in the early modern period.' Sixteenth Century Journal ’...[offers] skilful, often original interpretations of English Renaissance literary works in which some of the most delightful, disturbing and downright bizarre automata (and related fantasies of animation) can be found.’ Seventeenth-Century News