|Henri Maillardet's Automaton at |
The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia
"What makes an automaton monstrous is not the arrangement of its parts (although the automaton is often formed to represent a monster, a highly significant convergence). That is to say, that disposition of its limbs is not what makes it rare and extraordinary; that is not what makes it a monstrum. Rather, it is the fact that matter formed by artificial means and moving of its own volition would seem to be endowed with spirit... The horror and fear provoked by appearances in nature of monstrous births moved over into the horror and fear provoked by our own artificial creations"Such an idea of the monstrous automaton seems inherently disembodied and yet intrinsically tied to a kind of artificial embodiment. Interestingly, it also seems to cast out once again the role of the senses in not only the reaction to the monstrous, but also in the conceptualisation of monstrosity. Although it may not necessarily have been an intentional directive of the text, in exploring the bonds between the development of monsters and the scientific revolution in Italy Hanafi draws attention to a sterilisation of the monstrous which is characteristic of many categories of monstrosity across cultural and historical boundaries.