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AI NarrativesA History of Imaginative Thinking about Intelligent Machines$
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Stephen Cave, Kanta Dihal, and Sarah Dillon

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198846666

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198846666.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 15 October 2021

Machines Like Us? Modernism and the Question of the Robot

Machines Like Us? Modernism and the Question of the Robot

(p.165) 7 Machines Like Us? Modernism and the Question of the Robot
AI Narratives

Paul March-Russell

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the technophobia of modernist literature towards the question of machine intelligence. The chapter takes Edmund Husserl’s ‘Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man’ (1935) as its starting point, in terms of the tension between a vitalistic conception of what defines the ‘human’ as opposed to the apparent sterility of machine technology. Husserl’s lecture is contextualized alongside critical thinkers Walter Benjamin, Gustave Le Bon, and Georg Simmel, and literary writers Albert Robida and Emile Zola. The second section concentrates upon Samuel Butler’s Erewhon (1872), with its satirical depiction of machine intelligence, in contrast to H. G. Wells’s grotesque rendering of the Beast Folk in The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) as a form of cyborg life. The final section, focusing upon representative texts by modernist authors such as E. M. Forster, Villiers de l’Isle Adam, Raymond Roussel, and Karel Čapek, argues that they respond variously to the templates of Butler and Wells.

Keywords:   Modernism, robot, automation, consciousness, technophobia

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