So this is the first time I’ve tried this course. I have no idea if the goon squad that runs around looking for allegedly lightweight courses is going to pick up on this one by its title, but at least that won’t be as hilarious a misfire when they picked up on my upper-level course on the theory and practice of world history. I hope it goes without saying that anyone actually looking at the readings will realize this is a substantial course, but if you need further persuasion, just think about the economic and cultural centrality of leisure and games to contemporary global life and then consider the ubiquity of leisure and games in human history. How could you argue against the rigorous historical study of these topics?
In this course, students will examine both the long-running global history and philosophy of play, games and leisure in human societies and the distinctive modern, post-industrial construction of leisure time and activities. Play is a serious question: there are deep questions about why humans do it and how it has changed over time, and powerful debates about the economic, cultural and social centrality of games and leisure time to modern societies. Do not take this course if you are looking for an easy or casual course: the reading load is often heavy and there are significant writing requirements. Regular attendance and active participation is also required. In some weeks, the seminar will be divided into several groups reading different assignments: in those weeks, you will be responsible for summarizing and describing your reading assignments to the other groups.
History 1L is also a first-year seminar, and we will be working on skills development in writing, persuasive argument, reading and discussion throughout the semester.
Thursday January 24th
Gordon Burghart, The Genesis of Animal Play, pp.3-20, pp. 45-110
Brian Sutton-Smith, The Ambiguity of Play, pp. 1-51
Exercise: Skimming for argument, note-taking for discussion.
Thursday January 31st
Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens, all
Roger Caillois, Man, Play and Games, pp. 37-70
Exercise: Argument formation.
Thursday February 7th
David Shenk, The Immortal Game: A History of Chess, selection
R.C. Bell, Board and Table Games From Many Civilizations, selection
Alison Futrell, A Sourcebook on the Roman Games, pp. 84-119
Maria Teresa Uriarte, â€œUnity in Duality: The Practice and Symbols of the Mesoamerican Ballgameâ€, in E. Michael Whittington, The Sport of Life and Death: The Mesoamerican Ballgame
Tomoko Sakomura, â€œJapanese Games of Memory, Matching and Identificationâ€, in Asian Games
Exercise: Themes across reading, synthesis of information. Verbal summaries of readings.
Leisure, Time and the Making of the Modern World
Thursday February 14th
Compton Reeves, Pleasures and Pastimes in Medieval England, Chapter Four and Five
Alessandro Arcangeli, Recreation in the Renaissance, selection
Chris Humphrey, The Politics of Carnival: Festive Misrule in Medieval England, selection
Reading TBA on contemplative practices/otium in monastic life
Nancy Struna, People of Prowess: Sport, Leisure and Labor in Early Anglo-America, Chapter Three and Four
Movie: â€œTom Jonesâ€
Exercise: Outlining and flow in writing.
Thursday February 21st
John Plumb, The Commercialisation of Leisure in 18th Century Britain, selection
Hugh Cunningham, Leisure in the Industrial Revolution, selection
Louise McReynolds, Russia at Play: Leisure Activities at the End of the Tsarist Era, selection
Brad Beaven, Leisure, Citizenship and Working-Class Men in Britain, selection
Phyllis Martin, Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville, selection
Catherine Yeh, Shanghai Love, selection
Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class
Tamara Hareven, Family Time and Industrial Time, selection
1st paper due.
Childhood and Play
Thursday February 28th
Howard Chudacoff, Children at Play: An American History
Mariam Formank-Brunell, â€œThe Politics of Dollhood in Nineteenth-Century Americaâ€, in Henry Jenkins, ed., The Childrenâ€™s Culture Reader
Selections from Tom Sawyer, The Secret Garden, Little House in the Big Woods
Movie: â€œPeter Panâ€
Revision of 1st paper due.
Thursday March 6th
CLR James, Beyond a Boundary, Chapter 4
David Goldblatt, The Ball Is Round, Chapter 8
Laura Fair, “Football and Leisure in Early Colonial Zanzibar”, in Zeleza and Veney, eds., Leisure in Urban Africa
Emmanuel Akeyampong, “Bukom and the Social History of Boxing in Accra”
Elliot J. Gorn, The Manly Art: Bare-Knuckle Prize-Fighting, selection
H.G. Bissinger, Friday Night Lights
Exercise: Evaluating methodology.
Play, Hobbies and Domestic Life
Vacations and Tourism
Thursday March 20th
Hofer and Jackson, The Games We Played
Steven Gelber, Hobbies: Leisure and the Culture of Work in America, pp. 23-58
Ekegami, Bonds of Civility, selection
Ruth Lampland, Hobbies For Everyone 
Austen Riggs, Play: Recreation in the Balanced Life 
Cindy Aron, Working at Play: A History of Vacations in the United States, selection
Pieter Judson, â€œEvery German Visitor Has a Volkisch Obligation He Must Fulfillâ€
Exercise: Primary sources and historical evidence
Source analysis paper due.
Gambling, Drink and Drugs
Thursday March 27th
Thomas Malaby, Gambling Life: Dealing in Contingency in a Greek City, Chapters 2 and 3
Jackson Lears, Something For Nothing, Chapter 2
David Schwarz, Roll the Bones: A History of Gambling, Part 2, 5 and 6
Emmanuel Akeyampong, Drink, Power and Cultural Change: A Social History of Alcohol in Ghana, selection
Madelon Powers, Faces Along the Bar: Lore and Order in the Workingman’s Saloon, Part 3
Zhang Yangwen, The Social Life of Opium in China, Chapters 5-8
Exercise: Formulating research topics
Digital Games: Applying the History of Play
Thursday April 4th
The debate over digital games
Jesper Juul, Half-Real
Eric Zimmerman and Katie Salen, Rules of Play, selection
Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck, Chapter 7
Nick Monfort, Twisty Little Passages, Chapter 8
Exercise: Search and other research skills.
Research topics for final paper due.
Thursday April 10th
Experiencing and interpreting games
Ian Bogost, Persuasive Games, selection
McKenzie Wark, Gamer Theory, selection
Mia Consalvo, Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames, selection
Stephen Johnson, Everything Bad Is Good For You, selection
Hands-on: Console games
Exercise: Sources and historiography
Source reaction paragraph due.
Thursday April 17th
Themes, Genres and the Development of Videogames
Leonard Herman, Phoenix, selection
David Kushner, Masters of Doom
JC Herz, Joystick Nation, selection
Hands-on: Doom, other computer games and emulations
Exercise: Abstract writing
Abstract for final paper due.
Thursday April 24th
TL Taylor, Play Between Worlds
Gary Alan Fine, Shared Fantasy: Role-Played Games as Social Worlds
Hands-on: World of Warcraft, Second Life
Thursday May 1st
Iain Banks, The Player of Games
The debate over the future of leisure
Exercise: Discussion of drafts of final paper.
Final 8-12 pp. paper due by 5pm May 9th.