This lecture is part of the (rescheduled) 2020 GHI Spring Lecture Series “'The spirits that I called': Artificial Life from the Enlightenment to the Present.”
The Hulk, Superman, the Terminator; they are all modern popular culture echoes of the golem, that mystical Jewish artificial man of legend, a sort of friendly Jewish Frankenstein. Widely seen as an icon of authentically Jewish lore, the golem has inspired a broad range of works of writers and artists within the Jewish world and beyond. The talk will explore the modern emanations of this figure from ambivalent Enlightenment discourses about the Jews, as well as gendered, racialized and sexualized difference more broadly, through to their 20th century reconfigurations and postmodern debates about the ‘posthuman’ (Donna Haraway) in relation to the cyborg. It will relate these discussions to contemporary representation of AI and test their promise to release us from the constraints of essentializing notions of the self.