My new book, Anatomy of a Robot: Literature, Cinema and the Cultural Work or Artificial People has just come out from Rutgers University Press. It is so exciting to see this project come to fruition and the book looks beautiful. Here is some more information about this project.
Why do we find artificial people fascinating? Drawing from a rich fictional and cinematic tradition, Anatomy of a Robot explores the political and textual implications of our perennial projections of humanity onto figures such as robots, androids, cyborgs, and automata. In an engaging, sophisticated, and accessible presentation, Despina Kakoudaki argues that, in their narrative and cultural deployment, artificial people demarcate what it means to be human. They perform this function by offering us a non-human version of ourselves as a site of investigation. Artificial people teach us that being human, being a person or a self, is a constant process and often a matter of legal, philosophical, and political struggle.
By analyzing a wide range of literary texts and films, including the fiction of Philip K. Dick, Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go, Metropolis, The Golem, Frankenstein, The Terminator, Blade Runner, I, Robot, and the television series Battlestar Galactica, and going back to origin stories, to alchemy and to Aristotle’s Physics and De Anima, she tracks four foundational narrative elements in this centuries-old discourse— the fantasy of the artificial birth, the fantasy of the mechanical body, the tendency to represent artificial people as slaves, and the interpretation of artificiality as an existential trope.
What unifies these investigations is the return of all four elements to the question of what constitutes the human.This focused approach to the topic of the artificial, constructed, or mechanical person allows us to reconsider the creation of artificial life. By focusing on their historical provenance and textual versatility, Kakoudaki elucidates artificial people’s main cultural function, which is the political and existential negotiation of what it means to be a person.
I am incredibly grateful to the two amazing readers that reviewed the manuscript. Here is what they had to say:
“Wide-ranging in its examples, erudite, politically relevant, and profound in its implications, this book is essential for anyone interested in our long history with created others.”
—Sherryl Vint, University of California, Riverside
“Anatomy of a Robot offers an insightful analysis of the cultural work artificial people perform as they elucidate what it is to be human; a refreshing intervention in the field and impressive in its breadth.”
—Teresa Heffernan, Saint Mary’s University
Table Of Contents
Introduction: Robot Anatomies
1 The Artificial Birth
2 The Mechanical Body
3 The Mechanical Slave
4 The Existential Cyborg
Conclusion: The Ends of the Human