ENGLISH 420 - Technology and the Humanities
Section: 001 Literature and Games
Term: FA 2013
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

Beginning as early as the first printed book in English (William Caxton’s The Game and Playe of Chesse) a host of approaches have sought to explain and to modify human behavior through the analysis of games, and vice versa. Game studies has attempted to analyze human culture through the window of the games we play, especially as those games articulate complex social structures. Seen as a tool to optimize decisions — and to anticipate the decisions of others — game theory has shaped political science, mainstream economics, the probability theory used in quantum physics, cryptography, and so on. It has also become a powerful tool — perhaps too powerful — for reading literature, film, and the arts. And, finally, a recent explosion of studies and practices called, loosely, “gamification” or “serious games” has held out the promise of a new utopia, turning everyday life into an extended episode of play. Taken together, then, games may be said to be deeply entwined with what it means to be human.

The purpose of this course is to explore the importance of the play of games in Western culture, in and by the arts and sciences. It is also to question some of the assumptions of game theory generally — such as whether it makes sense to think of human choices as fundamentally rational. In other words, we will be thinking about literature in terms of theories of and approaches to games, but also rethinking the theory of games in light of the insights literature can lend.

Course Requirements:

There’s one more twist. This course itself involves a game. Students become players, each of whom receives a unique custom deck of cards. These cards are used to construct traditional and not-so-traditional assignments, and to navigate through weekly tasks and challenges. Some of these assignments include essays, response papers, or short presentations; others include changes to the rules of the game itself, or short challenges for your colleagues, among many other permutations.

Intended Audience:

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Class Format:

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ENGLISH 420 - Technology and the Humanities
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
MW 11:30AM - 1:00PM
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