Robots and Anthropomorphism in Science-Fiction Theatre: From Rebellion to Domesticity and Back Again

  • Kara ReillyEmail author
Part of the Avant-Gardes in Performance book series (AGP)


Rather than being created in a lab, the robot was born in the imagination of a playwright. Karel Capêk’s play R.U.R., Rossum’s Universal Robots coined the term ‘robot’ from the Czech word robotnik meaning serf or worker or robota meaning ‘drudgery’ or ‘servitude.’ This chapter examines the ways in which contemporary automata performances and science-fiction theatre possess echoes of R.U.R. Science-fiction theatre continues to anthropomorphize robots and project human affect onto them. Reilly argues that the Dilbert robot storyline reflects Marx’s famous prediction from the Eighteenth Brumaire that “history repeats itself: the first time as horror, the second time as farce.” Reilly juxtaposes this with Brecht’s position from Arturo Ui that “if we look instead of gawking, we’d see the horror at the heart of farce.” The trajectory of science-fiction robot theatre seems to be from rebellion to domesticity and back to rebellion again.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ExeterExeterUK

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