Books  |  ,   |  June 30, 2015

My Fair Ladies: Female Robots, Androids, and Other Artificial Eves

By Julie Wosk.
Published by Rutgers University Press.
240 pages.

The fantasy of a male creator constructing his perfect woman dates back to the Greek myth of Pygmalion and Galatea. Yet as technology has advanced over the past century, the figure of the lifelike manmade woman has become nearly ubiquitous, popping up in everything from Bride of Frankenstein to Weird Science to The Stepford Wives. Now Julie Wosk takes us on a fascinating tour through this bevy of artificial women, revealing the array of cultural fantasies and fears they embody.

My Fair Ladies considers how female automatons have been represented as objects of desire in fiction and how “living dolls” have been manufactured as real-world fetish objects. But it also examines the many works in which the “perfect” woman turns out to be artificial—a robot or doll—and thus becomes a source of uncanny horror. Finally, Wosk introduces us to a variety of female artists, writers, and filmmakers—from Cindy Sherman to Shelley Jackson to Zoe Kazan—who have cleverly crafted their own images of simulated women.

Anything but dry, My Fair Ladies draws upon Wosk’s own experiences as a young female Playboy copywriter and as a child of the “feminine mystique” era to show how images of the artificial woman have loomed large over real women’s lives. Lavishly illustrated with film stills, artwork, and vintage advertisements, this book offers a fresh look at familiar myths about gender, technology, and artistic creation.

Table of Contents

  1. Simulated Women and the Pygmalion Myth
  2. Mechanical Galateas: Female Automatons and Dolls
  3. Mannequins, Masks, Monsters, and Dolls:
    Film and the Arts in the 1920s and 1930s
  4. Simulated Women in Television and Films, 1940s and After
  5. Engineering the Perfect Woman
  6. Dancing with Robots and Women in Robotics Design
  7. The Woman Artist as Pygmalion

About the Author
Julie Wosk is a professor of art history, English, and studio painting at the State University of New York, Maritime College in New York City. She is the author of Women and the Machine: Representations From the Spinning Wheel to the Electronic Age and Breaking Frame: Technology and the Visual Arts in the Nineteenth Century.