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Title: Man-machine : the scientific creation of the artificial human in nineteenth and twentieth century science fiction
Author: Willis, Martin Thomas
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1997
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The scientific creation of the artificial human is a topic which has fascinated literature since the dawn of modern scientific methodology in the late eighteenth century. Science fiction literature, which arose in definable form at the same time, became predominantly - but not exclusively - the literary form which addressed this use. The construction of a credible science fiction narrative, then, goes hand in hand with the construction of artificial man. E.T.A. Hoffmann, in his two tales, 'The Sandman' and 'The Automata', was the first to engage with these concerns, conjoining the magico-mystical tradition of early speculative philosophy to the practical, experimentally verifiable tenets of natural philosophy or science. This formulation of disparate elements - which is, in part, a continuation of the links between the occult and the scientific in the seventeenth century and before - created a foundation from which all future science fiction texts would stem, their success often depending on the ability of the narrative to weld these elements together. Such connections also inspired the first scientifically created artificial humans: primarily primitive automata of a mechanistic nature, but infused with the mystical theories of esoteric science found in mesmerism. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein reveals a similar narrative construction to Hoffmann's tales, as well as a similar engagement with the distinct forces of mechanism and mysticism. Frankenstein, though, proves that these elements are historically relevant; symbolising the conflict between romanticism and materialism that predominates in the early nineteenth century. Victor Frankenstein's scientifically created man is a product of both these positions, an untenable problematic with which he struggles - as does the whole novel - from the moment of his creation until his death. The onset of industrialism does not clarify such problems. Indeed the science fiction narrative became backgrounded in this period, due mainly to the monopolising effects of a materialistic scientific and social culture.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available