Robots are everywhere. They build our cars, fight our wars, and clean our homes. Robots help us define concepts of humanity, explore the ethical ramifications of knowledge, and question the role of complex technology in our lives. Yet these liminal objects have a long history. Medieval robots, also called automata, appear throughout the Middle Ages in literature, art, courtly ceremony, and liturgical ritual. They could reveal the time of day or the date of your death, and they might be made by artisans or sorcerers. This illustrated lecture will explore these seductive, strange, and sometimes terrifying objects, and will uncover the hidden medieval past of our robotic present.
Elly R. Truitt is Assistant Professor of Medieval History at Bryn Mawr College. She has published articles in a number of scholarly journals, and is currently finishing a book on medieval automata. She also has a blog, called Medieval Robots. She lives in Philadelphia, PA and is left-handed.