Friday, February 26, 2021

Eight books about the strange and curious world of early robots

Rebecca Morgan Frank’s fourth collection of poems is Oh You Robot Saints! (2021).

Her previous collections are Sometimes We’re All Living in a Foreign Country and The Spokes of Venus, and Little Murders Everywhere, finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award.

At Lit Hub she shared a reading list that is "an eclectic sampling to help you navigate the world of automata that live in libraries." One title on the list:
E.R. Truitt, Medieval Robots

I found E.R. Truitt’s book Medieval Robots on my living room coffee table, where my resident medievalist had left it, and opening it was a bit like being Alice falling into the looking glass: I discovered a whole world I didn’t know existed, one with mechanical monkeys and talking heads, with magical gardens full of automata and medieval romances in which automata guard tombs. Here you’ll find the fascinating story of Gerbert of Aurillac, his talking head, and his rise to Pope, but you’ll also find discussions of clockworks that encompass both engineering and philosophy. This is not a compendium of fantastical tales, but a scholarly deep dive into medieval automata, realized and literary, with a scope that embraces the long history of the automaton. Truitt investigates some of the most interesting questions about the human drive to create automata, for, as she notes in the introduction, automata “are mimetic objects that dramatize the structure of the cosmos and humankind’s role in it.” This was the first book on automata I read, and the questions and curiosity it instilled in me jumpstarted my own book project and sent me on a wonderful journey of further reading. If there is one book that everyone should read about early automata, Truitt’s book is it. My guess is that some of you, like me, won’t stop there.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue