For most of the eighteenth century, automata were deemed a celebration of human ingenuity, feats of science and reason. Among the Romantics, however, they prompted a contradictory apprehension about mechanization and contrivance: such science and engineering threatened the spiritual nature of life, the source of compassion in human society. A deep dread of puppets and the machinery that propels them consequently surfaced in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century literature. Romantic Automata is a collection of essays examining the rise of this cultural suspicion of mechanical imitations of life.
Recent scholarship in post-humanism, post-colonialism, disability studies, post-modern feminism, eco-criticism, and radical Orientalism has significantly affected the critical discourse on this topic. In engaging with the work and thought of Coleridge, Poe, Hoffmann, Mary Shelley, and other Romantic luminaries, the contributors to this collection open new methodological approaches to understanding human interaction with technology that strives to simulate, supplement, or supplant organic life.