Date Awarded


Document Type

Dissertation -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Arthur Knight


The science fiction imaginary of mid-twentieth century America often takes as its subjects all manner of animate objects --- living machines like robots, cyborgs, automata, androids, and intelligent "thinking" computers. These living machines embody early cold war anxieties about the relationship between humans and their machines, as well as about human "identity" in a world perceived as increasingly technological and fragmented. Built with text and still or moving images, these figures' bodies are formed by metal and plastic, circuits and electronics, at times fused with organic parts -- at the same time that they are also represented as built from the innovation and imagination of cutting-edge American industry and science. These diverse machined bodies are sometimes straightforwardly humanoid in form, and at other times, they are less so, while still others may appear to share little in common with humans at all. as bearers of built bodies, living machines inhabit the interface between human and machine, exposing the ruptures and contradictions of the conception of the modem, technological body: the material and the immaterial, the animate and the inanimate, the subject and the object. While this study analyzes fiction by canonical science fiction writers like Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and Arthur C. Clarke, its focus is on government documents and images regarding NASA's Projects Mercury (1959-1963) and Gemini (1962-1966), popular journalism articles and images, Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and less well-known pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s through the 1950s.



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