English | Intro to Writing & the Study of Literature: Play
L141 | 16323 | Elmer


This course will consider what it means to play, and why humans need
to do it.  The great Dutch historian, Johann Huizinga, once argued
that our species should be called homo ludensCAman the player.@  But
Huizinga also pointed out that many social animals have play
behaviors that are essential to individual ans group development.
The activities that can be considered play range from two puppies
Anipping@ each other to Greek tragic theater, from the most sacred
religious rituals to sporting contests and off-color jokes.

In this course, we will take an exploratory approach to the problem,
reading and viewing a number of examples of play, analyzing them for
their implications about how we interpret our world.  Is warfare a
game? If not, what is going on in Fight Club?  Are jokes, laughter,
and humor modes of Amake-believe@ designed to produce group
cohesion?  Then why is Joe Pesci so scary in Goodfellas when he
makes people laugh?  When does play become more important than real
life?  Why are religious or patriotic symbols treated as though they
are the Areal@ things, when everyone knows they=re Amake-believe@?
Why do people think that reading novels or going to the theater
might be good for your moral development?

This class will ask you to think hard, read carefully, write often,
and open your mind to novel ideas and different cultures and times.
Writing instruction will emphasize brainstorming, analysis,
revisionCand how to combine all these in polished essays. Two
lectures and two sections per week.