Indiana University Bloomington

Fall 2018: Schedule of the Reading Group

Conveners: Jonathan Elmer (English) and Bret Rothstein (Art History)

The reading group usually meets Fridays, 2 - 3:30 pm, at the College Arts & Humanities Institute, 1211 E. Atwater Avenue. Unless noted otherwise, readings are from Eugen Fink, Play as Symbol of the World and Other Writings, translated by Alexander Moore and Christopher Turner (Bloomington: IU Press, 2016). The full text of the volume is available in electronic form from the Library website (IU logic required).


Aug 31: “Oasis of Happiness” (Fink 14-31).

Sept 7: “Play as a Philosophical Problem,” sections 1-3 (Fink 35-61).

Sept 14: Angeline Lillard, “Why Do the Children (Pretend) Play?” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 21:11 (2017), 826-834.
Sergio Pellis and Vivien Pellis, “Play Behavior,” in: J. Vonk & T.K. Shackleford, eds. Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior.
Sergio Pellis and Vivien Pellis, The Playful Brain, chapters 7 and 8.
Sergio Pellis joins the reading group to discuss aspects of human & animal play. He also presents a public lecture.

Sept 21: “Play as a Philosophical Problem,” sections 4-5 (Fink 61-79). 

Sept 28: “The Metaphysical Interpretation of Play,” sections 6-7 (Fink 80-97).

Oct 5: “The Metaphysical Interpretation of Play,” sections 8-10 (Fink 97-124).

Oct 12: “The Interpretation of Play as Myth,” sections 11-12 (Fink 125-142).

Oct 19: Roger Caillois, Man, Play and Games, chapters 2 and 3.
Alexander Galloway, "Debord's Nostalgic Algorithm."
Alexander Galloway joins the reading group to discuss the ludic aspects of new media. He also presents a public lecture.

Oct 26: “The Interpretation of Play as Myth,” sections 13-15 (Fink 142-169).

Nov 2: “The Interpretation of Play as Myth,” sections 16-17 (Fink 169-187).

Nov 9: “The Worldliness of Human Play,” sections 18-20 (Fink 188-215).

Nov 16: Reading TBD.

Nov 30: James P. Carse, Finite and Infinite Games, chapter 1.
Alva Noë joins the reading group. He also presents a public lecture.

Eugen Fink, Play as Symbol of the World

This Fall, the reading group concentrates on some of the work on play by the phenomenologist Eugen Fink, now collected in the translated volume, Play as Symbol of the World and Other Writings (Indiana University Press, 2016). Our aim is to move beyond the more familiar accounts of play in Johan Huizinga's Homo Ludens and Roger Caillois's Man, Play, and Games. Important though those texts are, neither explores their immensely influential ideas as fully as one might wish. Huizinga's mysticism ultimately precluded him from engaging fully with the cognitive and epistemological aspects of play. Caillois, by contrast, narrowed his focus to such an extent that his text cannot always sustain its larger claims. (Interested readers may find an informative contrast in Bernard Suits's The Grasshopper: Games, Life, and Utopia.) Furthermore, neither accounts properly for the phenomenology of play – something Fink was especially well suited to do, given that he had studied with both Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger (above, Heidegger and Fink in 1965). The result is a text that lays out a rigorous, if not uncontentious, epistemology of the ludic, providing an excellent foundation for faculty and students interested in engaging with play in their own research and teaching.

Selections from the book will include Fink's magnum opus, Play as Symbol of the World, as well as his earlier essay, "Oasis of Happiness," which laid out some of the key concepts that would drive Fink's subsequent research. The group will also read additional material selected by each of our visiting speakers.

Like all Center activities, the reading group too is open to the public.


The Reading Group constitutes the intellectual heart of the Center and predates the Center by many years. Here are some of the major texts the group has studied:

Adorno, Aesthetic Theory
Arendt, The Human Condition
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics.
Badiou, Being and Event.
Bergson, Matter and Memory.
Blumenberg,The Legitimacy of the Modern Age.
Cavell, The Claims of Reason.
Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe.
Deleuze, Cinema I; Difference and Repetition.
Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject.
Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams.
Gadamer, Truth and Method.
Heidegger, Being and Time.
Husserl, The Crisis of European Sciences.
Lyotard, The Differend.
Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception; The Visible and the Invisible.
Plato, The Laws.
Rancière, The Names of History.
Zizek, The Puppet and the Dwarf.