Copying Machines: Taking Notes for the Automaton by Catherine Liu

By Catherine Liu

Literary Theory/Cultural reviews Explores literary theory's worry of and fascination with the mechanical. Anxieties approximately solving absolutely the distinction among the person and the mechanical reproduction of the individual, the automaton, are as outdated because the first visual appeal of the desktop itself. Exploring those anxieties and the efforts they triggered, this ebook opens a window on the most major, if sophisticated, ideological battles waged on behalf of the human opposed to the laptop because the Enlightenment-one that keeps within the wake of technological and conceptual growth this day. A sustained exam of the automaton as early glossy desktop and as a curious ancestor of the twentieth-century robotic, Copying Machines deals prolonged readings of mechanistic pictures within the eighteenth century in the course of the prism of twentieth-century remark. In readings of texts by means of Lafayette, Molire, Laclos, and l. a. Bruyre-and in a bankruptcy at the eighteenth-century inventor of automatons, Jacques Vaucanson-Catherine Liu presents a desirable account of how within which figures of the automaton and of the preindustrial laptop hang-out the mind's eye of ancien rgime France and constitution key moments of the canonical literature and feedback of the interval. Catherine Liu is assistant professor within the division of Cultural stories and Comparative Literature and within the division of French and Italian on the college of Minnesota. Translation Inquiries: college of Minnesota Press

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There were two deaths in the family that made Robert de Man give up the care of Paul to Uncle Hendrik—the death of Paul’s older brother and the suicide of his wife a year later. By giving Paul to his brother to raise, the father renounces his paternity in a radical and violent gesture. Paul is in a sense disowned, but not completely. The deaths are apparently too much for Robert, who instead of mourning his losses decides to join the dead by giving up his surviving son. The father joins his wife and older son by effacing himself as father of the survivor.

The spring mechanism and the system of weights, pulleys, and levers that allowed for automatic movement are seen as both deceitful and stupid when compared with the authenticity and the intelligence of spontaneous speech. ”32 More surprisingly, however, in Bénichou’s historical materialism, the mechanical prejudice is left intact: a kind of metaphysical communion or communication takes place there. Bénichou depends on theology. In this case, the hidden dwarf in Benjamin’s automaton of historical materialism represents a theological respect of the difference between matter and mind.

To say that machines are nothing more than genitals reduces our analysis to a naive quest for one-to-one correspondences between signs and referents. We have to remember that the dream machine is always changing—that is, it is incessantly increasing in complexity: it takes on, in a manner of speaking, a life of its own. Both writing and masturbation are two activities that have to do with manual manipulation: both are jobs that demand a handson approach that critics like Bénichou deplores. In returning to Descartes’s Meditations by way of a reading of Blade Runner, I am following an itinerary of reading already drawn up by Slavoj Zˇizˇek and Kaja Silverman.

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