Sublime Dreams of Living Machines
The Automaton in the European Imagination
Harvard University Press 2012
From artificial talking heads to the famed defecating duck and beyond, Sublime Dreams of Living Machines: The Automaton in the European Imagination (Harvard University Press, 2011) offers readers an intellectual and cultural history of Europe on the mechanical wings and flexing backs of its automata. Balancing a cognitive argument with careful historical contextualization, Minsoo Kang maps the landscape of self-moving entities as actual and conceptual objects. He allows us a glimpse into the many ways that these categorical anomalies, as perennial figures in what we might think of as a cultural imagination, have helped shape some of the most influential work in the history of science, literature, and ideas. Kang also offers many chapters worth of fascinating examples in this carefully curated cabinet of wonders. In the course of our conversation, we also spoke about the particular joys and challenges of balancing the work of a historian with a concurrent career in fiction writing, and debated the benefits of being an AM vs. PM writer. Enjoy!