The Enlightenment Cyborg: A History of Communications and Control in the Human Machine, 1660-1830

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University of Toronto Press, 2007 M01 1 - 308 pages

For many cultural theorists, the concept of the cyborg - an organism controlled by mechanic processes - is firmly rooted in the post-modern, post-industrial, post-Enlightenment, post-nature, post-gender, or post-human culture of the late twentieth century. Allison Muri argues, however, that there is a long and rich tradition of art and philosophy that explores the equivalence of human and machine, and that the cybernetic organism as both a literary figure and an anatomical model has, in fact, existed since the Enlightenment.

In The Enlightenment Cyborg, Muri presents cultural evidence - in literary, philosophical, scientific, and medical texts - for the existence of mechanically steered, or 'cyber' humans in the works seventeenth- and eighteenth-century thinkers. Muri illustrates how Enlightenment exploration of the notion of the 'man-machine' was inextricably tied to ideas of reproduction, government, individual autonomy, and the soul, demonstrating an early connection between scientific theory and social and political thought. She argues that late twentieth-century social and political movements, such as socialism, feminism, and even conservatism, are thus not unique in their use of the cyborg as a politicized trope.

The Enlightenment Cyborg establishes a dialogue between eighteenth-century studies and cyborg art and theory, and makes a significant and original contribution to both of these fields of inquiry.


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From The Scriblerian, Vol. XLI, No. 1 (August 2008):
"Teeming issues consuming all of us surround the slow, but sure systemic changes wrought in our time by the increasing meld of technology with
the human organism. We are all at risk. The cyborg image is Ms. Muri's vehicle for this profound ontological review of who we imagine we are in the great scheme of things; she proceeds by enlisting the philosophies, sciences, medicines, humanities, and literatures of the best minds from the seventeenth century until now. ...The singular groundbreaking contribution of Ms. Muri's interdisciplinary study is to integrate, for perhaps the first time, these major systemic changes with their ignored Enlightenment past and worrisome indeterminate future. ...Ms. Muri's brilliance is her encyclopedic ability to make a connection between early Enlightenment scientific theory and its social and political thought on the cyborg and late twentieth-century feminism, socialism, and conservatism that use the cyborg as a politicized trope. This rare and compelling tie-in between Enlightenment and postmodern worlds on cyborg art and scientific theory is an interdisciplinary triumph.
"...unless we opt for the profound level of integrated interdisciplinary knowledge displayed by Ms. Muri, the humanities will continue to be a scurrying lap dog obedient and affectionate to science and the popular culture."
Kenneth Craven

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About the author (2007)

Allison Muri is an assistant professor in the Department of English at the University of Saskatchewan.

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