Keynote Speaker & Presentation

We are thrilled to announce this year’s keynote speaker:

Dr. Aubrey Gabel

(Columbia University)

Address Title:

“Homo Ludens Redux: Play/Game Theory and Ludic Literature”


Since the Dutch historian and cultural theorist Johan Huizinga published Homos Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture (1938), in which he examined play as a model for serious cultural practices like art and war, multiple disciplines—from anthropology and ethnography to child psychology and biology—have made a case for play’s seriousness and questioned its opposition to both reality and work. In fact, play metaphors long preceded Huizinga. Throughout the history of Western philosophy, play and game metaphorize ontological questions as diverse as Heraclitus’s time, Kant’s imagination, Schiller’s Spieltrieb, Wittgenstein’s Sprauspeil, Sartre’s bad faith, or existence itself. In fact, metaphors like play/game are so ubiquitous that they operate like a “suprametaphor” or “uhr-metaphor,” or a foundational structure of meaning and thought. Literature studies has been no exception. Playing and gaming are rampant metaphors for readerly or writerly activities, including everything from Derridean notions of structure to Duvignaud’s radical creative openness. Motte, Beaujour, and others have gone so far as to claim that “play” is a fundamental dimension of all literature. How then do we identify the specificity of ludic literatures? Literary ludics rely on elaborate textual constraints, which impose specific linguistic and formal rules on a text or its structure, and/or on procedural or project-based literature, which places conditions on the context and process of writing itself. This talk will walk through some transnational examples of ludic literature and look at the “non-field” of play/game theory. I will conclude by proposing a new model for considering ludic literary as both a textual praxis, a ludicrous array of grotesque themes, and a social strategy for intervening in the literary field.