Comrada - Golem and robot The search for connections

Comrada - Golem and robot The search for connections - In...

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Golem and Robot: A Search for Connections Norma Comrada LEGENDARY figures are associated with the history and culture of many cities, but perhaps only Prague can boast of two such widely and immediately recog- nizable figures as the golem and the robot. Rabbi Loew's golem and Karel Capek's robots entered into literature and lore more than three hundred years apart, and wholly dissimilar circum- stances gave rise to their creation. Yet despite these and other differences, Prague's golem and robot share more than worldwide renown and city of origin. This paper examines some of their similarities. It also answers the question - seemingly still unre- solved in the relevant English-languageliterature- of whether the golem legend indeed inspired the notion of robots and Capek's R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), the 1920 play that gave the word "robot" to the world. 1 The emphasis is on robots and also on Capek's own words on the topic, in that little of this information has been available in English to date. Similarities between the golem and the robot are more numer- ous than might be expected. To begin with, three obvious points of correspondence involve their creation: both were created by humans, their creation encompassed both material and mystical elements, and both were created to serve humankind. Three additional similarities will be explored later. Obviously the golem and the robot were created by humans. Further, both owe their creation to individuals who had already attained distinction in their professions. Moreover, each of the creators can be said to owe his wider, more enduring fame to these particular, respective creations. The "High Rabbi" Loew (c. 1520- 1609) was eminently regarded in the Jewish communities of Prague and other cities for his wisdom and scholarship, but it is Rabbi Loew's later association with the golem legend that ensured his renown beyond his community and era. Capek (1890-1938) had also achieved a degree of prominence in his homeland as a 244 In keeping with section 29 of the Canadian Copyright Act, fair dealing allows you to make one copy. This copy must be used solely for research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, education, parody or satire.
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in the Arts Norma Comrada writer and critic prior to his inventing the robots, but his interna- tional reputation originated with R. U.R., his least favorite - as it happens-of his own five plays and the three he coauthored with his brother. Regarding the second point, the creation of each of these imaginative entities involved elements of both substance and in- substantiality, matter and fantasy. As was the case with its Talmu- dic and Kabbalistic precedents, the Prague golemwas formed from clay and water. Rabbi Loew instilled life in his golem by means of Kabbalistic incantation and ritual. The correspondence here is that Capek, too, began with material elements, with "certain sub- stances and processes found in chemistry and biological chemis- try," as he wrote in his 1935 newspaper article, "Autor Roboto se braanf" ["The Author of
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