Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts


Comparative Literature


Dr. Christopher Keep


George Du Maurier’s Trilby (1895) and Raymond Roussel’s Locus Solus (1914) feature a unique figure, the human automaton, a human being who has been transformed into a machine. Rather than becoming objectified and dehumanized, thus transformed they produce great music and art defined by the single quality supposedly irreproducible by machines—variability. Drawing multiplicity from the sameness of exact repetition in their art, the human automata’s identities are equally capable of embodying otherness and oppositions in a plural identity that remains uniquely singular. This challenges contemporary attitudes towards automation as a fixative, deterministic and reductive, and ultimately dehumanizing transformation. Linking automatism, otherness located within the self, and creativity, the human automaton becomes a marker of the potential for the malleability of identity that, in enriching creative expression, interrogates the boundary limits of human and machine.