Fugitive Figures: On the Modes of Existence of Medieval Automata in Old French Narrative
Duke University Press
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Franklin-Brown, M. (2020). Fugitive Figures: On the Modes of Existence of Medieval Automata in Old French Narrative. Romanic Review, 111 (1), 66-84. https://doi.org/10.1215/00358118-8007964
When it comes to the creation of automata, few imaginations were as fecund as those of twelfth-century writers—not smiths or illusionists or engineers, but writers. Free of the obligation to draw up plans and forge parts and figure out why they fail to function properly, untroubled by the ravages that might be wrought upon a machine by use or accident or excess of humidity, the authors of early medieval romances indulged their wildest dreams for self-moving mechanisms that imitated bodies born of nature. Some of these automata took the shape of animals or birds, but the most marvelous resembled humans, except that they were visibly, unabashedly better. They were not the replicants we see in Blade Runner, dangerously similar to humans but with more luminous skin. The automata described in medieval romance were made of gold inlaid with enamel and jewels. They could play musical instruments and perform gymnastics and shoot arrows with flawless aim. Their durability and perfection allowed them to serve as perpetual guards at the tombs of heroes and as tutors in courtly behavior for living lords and ladies.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1215/00358118-8007964
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/291312
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