chapter  6
The Mechanical Saint: Early Modern Devotion and the Language of Automation
Pages 14

Humanoid automata are an occasional but persistent presence in early modern religious prose. Just as in B-movies of the twentieth century, however, the arrival of such figures on the scene is almost never a good sign. Like the aliens, zombies, and robots of the American multiplex, the life-like but non-sentient machines of Protestant sermons and polemics inspire mistrust and sometimes revulsion, while at the same time offering a window into contemporary anxieties about authenticity and human agency. From Lancelot Andrewes and John Donne to Thomas Edwards and John Milton, Protestant writers from across the doctrinal spectrum use the language or imagery of mechanical automation to characterize hypocrites, heretics, and others they consider beyond the religious pale. In Andrewes’ contemptuous words, such people are no more than “the automata, the spectra, the puppets of Religion.”1