Table of Contents


Playing Before God: Theology and Play in Dialogue 
Daniel Gabelman (University of St Andrews)

Theology is often seen as being allied to ‘seriousness’ and thus against lighter aspects of existence like laughter and play, yet Wisdom is said to have ‘played before God’ at Creation (Proverbs 8.30-31) while Jesus says only those who become like children can enter the kingdom of heaven. The relationship between play and theology is more complex than would first appear. This paper will look at the play theory of Derrida, Bakhtin and Gadamer, pointing out affinities with Christian theology, and suggesting some ways in which play theory might rightly challenge theology. The theology of Jürgen Moltmann and Hans Urs Von Balthasar will be examined in order to explore connections to play theory and to offer some critiques of its excesses and shortcomings.


The Ludic Parody of Terry Pratchett 
Camilla Ulleland Hoel (University of Edinburgh)

The paper shows how the ludic parody of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, rather than fix itself as a narrow parody of a single work, allows for unresolved play through juxtapositions of incompatible worlds and opens up into a rhizomatic interconnection of a series of genres and literary worlds. It thereby avoids Bakhtin's charge of modern parody as lifeless, narrow ridicule. I will relate this to Bakhtin's description of the carnival form as a liberation from established truths, celebrating inventive freedom.


Politics of Play: Situationism, Détournement, and Anti-Art 
Christie Ko (University of Edinburgh)

The Situationists International (SI) personally sought to undermine the use of spectacle as a commercialised tool of capitalism. Blending their interpretations of Marxism with that of the historical avant-garde, the Situationists went to war with the institutions of art and academia. What was their method of attack on this world of bastardized, commercialized spectacle? Quite simply, it was play. Although subversion through theatre and play is hardly a novel idea, the Situationists employed play in ways that had never been done to such extremes. They were play without spectacle, or even play as anti-spectacle and anti-art. The Situationists were determined to turn the language of the state against the state using what they termed detournment. What this amounts to is play in a unique form; play used to undermine the very institution of language, and therefore both social order and authoritative control. Play has the potential for great change, as demonstrated in Paris, 1968. But is it still in use to such ends today? Who might we consider the Situationists of the twenty-first century?


The Mad Man in the Attic: Playing with Gendered Literary Identity as Object and Muse in Iris Murdoch’s The Good Apprentice and The Message to the Planet
Emma Miller (University of Durham)

Looking at Iris Murdoch’s The Good Apprentice and The Message to the Planet, alongside Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic (2000), this paper examines how Murdoch plays with traditional literary notions of gender. Arguably in both texts she engages with Bloom’s Anxiety of Influence and Freud’s ‘Oedipus complex’ to readdress and re-evaluate the struggle between not just sons, but more importantly, daughters, with their biological and literary heritage in the twentieth century. Instead of the ‘mad woman’ hidden away, Murdoch depicts women struggling with the male dominated society, not just social values but also literary tradition. She deliberately manipulates literary conventions to this end by placing eccentric and independently minded female protagonists in literary settings which would normally be associated with inhibiting them via an understood patriarchal regime, using aspects usually associated with both Gothic and Fairy Tale genres. This paper looks at these aspects to Murdoch’s novels and consider whether she is making a feminist statement by playing with these concepts or if she is rather playing with a concept of potentially ‘sexless’ literature instead.


In Arcadia; Landscape Filming in a Toxic Wasteland: Game Engine Affordances and Post-Game Narratives. 
Corrado Morgana (University of Arts, London)

This paper discusses the production of artists work using existing videogame engines. It considers transgressive negotiations and engagements within the simulated gameworld that differ from the usual type of engagements that affect a nominal gamer. It considers the affordances that a game engine has in effecting creative practice and how these affordances can be discussed as post-game narratives. It later describes the nature of post-game narratives as documents of performativity and as a literary form born out of such practices.


Playful Culture and the Glamorization of Everyday (Virtual) Life: Elements of Play in Facebook Applications 
Valentina Rao (no present affiliation)

New forms of pervasive and “serious” games are invading the sphere of everyday life, leaking from the entertainment realm into “ordinary” territory. Virtual worlds and social networks, by meshing ludic and serious activities, raise questions not only about the status of games within society, but also about the notion of play itself. This paper will examine how the “play” element is enacted in Facebook applications, and what is the role of casual games in social networks.


Violence as Surrealist Play in Angela Carter’s Shadow Dance 
Anna Fruchart Watz (Uppsala University)

The surrealists used play as a method of investigation, intending to liberate the pleasure principle and break traditional/rational patterns of thought. This paper argues that Angela Carter’s novelShadow Dance (1966) fundamentally engages with the notion of surrealist play. In Shadow Dance, as in surrealism, the favoured site for playing is the female body, which becomes attacked, mutilated or forced through disfiguring transformations. Critics of the novel have tended to read the aggression meted out to its female characters purely in terms of victimisation of woman, focusing on the ethical implications that arise out of such a reading. Whilst acknowledging the ethical complexities of Carter’s representation of violence, this paper views this violence through the lens of what I argue is Carter’s surrealist play. The paper argues that the violence of representation and the representation of violence are negotiated via surrealist play in Shadow Dance and that this play reframes the ways in which we read the ethics of violence in that novel.


The Performance of Digital Play 
Emma Westecott (University of Newport, Wales)

Modern digital games are a highly successful commercial form of entertainment, however it is only relatively recently that they have started to be taken seriously as a modern art form. A central aspect of game form is the active role held by the player, whose actions and behaviour create the gaming experience. The argument presented in this paper is that the playing of videogames is a performance act and that our understanding of this precocious dramatic form is enhanced by applying the lens offered by performance theory to more closely understand the dynamics that thrive in the dance between player and game.

This paper offers a position statement that outlines some starting points for exploring the unique aspects of digital game performance.




Ana Salzberg
Gesine Strenge