MIMESIS Munich Doctoral Program for Literature and the Arts
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Bettina Vitzthum

Bettina Vitzthum, M.A.

Doctoral Student

Contact

Institut für Englische Philologie
Schellingstr. 3
80799 München

Room: VG 112
Phone: +49(0)89 2180-2800

Thesis Title

ἀνήρ εἶδος: Robotic Mimesis of Humanity in Fiction

Abstract

The object of this dissertation project is the engagement with the concept of the android: a humanoid robot functioning as an imitation of humanity in appearance and behaviour. The android (gr. ἀνήρ man, human εἶδος form, shape) – in the sense of a mechanical representation of man – is both a figure with a rich literary heritage, as well as an opportunity for the reflection of mimesis in the context of the human preoccupation with its own automatisation, imitation, and progression. The android in art is mimesis within mimesis: if art is mimicking life, then within this mimicry, humanity’s own representation (literary and otherwise) represents itself though the creation of the android. This second level of representation – authors creating representations of humanity who in turn recreate humanity artificially – is further complicated by the rapidly approaching reality of robot technology, posing the question whether in this instance life actually did mimic art, or if the motif was merely an accurate prognosis of the inherent human need of self-mimesis. The research will examine android-related literature and film from Ovid’s Metamorphoseon Libri and Jewish Golem-folklore, to 20th century Science Fiction like Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and current TV serials like Lisa Joy’s and Johnathan Nolan’s Westworld.