Date Awarded

Fall 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)


American Studies


Charles McGovern

Committee Member

Grey Gundaker

Committee Member

Michelle Lelievre


Automata ("self-moving" machines) and reborn dolls (hyperrealistic baby dolls) individually conjure up questions of dynamic and aesthetic realism--external components of the human form as realistically represented or reproduced. as simulacra of humans in movement and appearance, they serve as sites of the uncanny exemplifying the idea in which as varying forms of the cyborg imbue them with troubling yet fantastical qualities that raises questions about our own humanness. My first essay, “Automaton: Movement and Artificial/Mechanical Life” directly addresses the characteristics that define humanness, principally the Rene Descartes mind-body dichotomy, by tracing the evolution of mechanical life, predicated as much on movement as consciousness, via the construction of automata. “Dis/Playing with Dolls: Stigmatization and the Performance of Reborn Dolls” takes the discussion a step further and examines people’s reactions when objects that look human are treated like human. I compare observable behaviors of dolls owners via social mediums like videos posted on YouTube, message boards, blogs, and news sources with responses by observers of this type of doll play, and superimposing a theory of play over this interaction. Whether or not automata and reborn dolls are socially accepted as signifiers of humanness, they already exist within our social space and reality. It is the recognition and acknowledgement of their presences in our everyday life and their agency that puts them squarely in the discourse of life.



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