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Poetic Engagement with Piano-Playing Women Automata

Poetic Engagement with Piano-Playing Women Automata

(p.170) Five Poetic Engagement with Piano-Playing Women Automata
Androids in the Enlightenment
Adelheid Voskuhl
University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines literary texts that use the two piano-playing women as motifs to develop broader intellectual and poetic agendas about the boundaries between humans and machines. In the years between 1750 and 1820, numerous writers concerned themselves with android automata and other artificial humans, and two of them used piano-playing women automata specifically: Johann Paul Friedrich Richter (who later in his life went by Jean Paul) in the 1780s and E. T. A. Hoffmann in the second decade of the next century. The texts by Richter and Hoffmann that feature piano-playing women automata are read and discussed in relation to other texts about automata from the time. It is argued that piano-playing women automata raised questions not only about whether humans had become “like” machines in the modern age, but also about whether the initial formation of the modern subject—the one preceding its mechanization—was a real and reliable process.

Keywords:   android automata, poetic agendas, women automata, piano-playing women, Johann Paul Friedrich Richter, E. T. A. Hoffmann, humans, machines

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