This book explores automata or early robots as performers on the stage of theatre history. Automata are precursors to our digital culture, demonstrating that our spectacular culture of machine-based entertainments has numerous historical precedents. Automata are surprisingly saturated with intellectual and cultural history. Chapters examine topics like English Reformation Iconoclasm's fear that art might surpass God's nature in Elizabethan moving statues; the influence that hydraulic garden automata had on Descartes' mechanical philosophy; automata as ideal objects of the aristocracy in eighteenth-century Europe; theatrical productions focussed on that alluring automaton Olympia; and a case study of R.U.R., the drama that coined the word Robot. At its heart, this study examines automata as both performative objects of mimesis and metaphors for the period in which they are explored.
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan