Themes in Literature: Literature and Games

English 1160
Literature and Games
Section 02
Gwendolyn Edward
Cornell 211

Who says games are childish? Certainly not authors like Geoffrey Chaucer, Rebecca Roanhorse, and Kiese Laymon, who use games in their stories to explore the complexity of human experience. In this course we’ll study how games in/and literature have been used both historically and contemporarily. We’ll ask how games function as plot devices, narrative arc, setting, and symbolism. We’ll examine how games reveal characters’ lives, social and political structures, and the mind of the author. And we’ll discuss how games, both in literature and inspired by literature, draw a “passive” reader into an “active” experience. We’ll read excerpts of novel length work and short stories, and we’ll look at how games in literature can also “live off the page”: video games and literary-inspired card and board games. This course will use “gamification” of the classroom—an educational approach to motivate learning by using game design and game elements in learning environments—and many of the assignments are based around game play or game creation. By the time you leave this course, you’ll have an overview of the history of how games have been used and depicted in literature, an understanding of how critics and writers have addressed the use of games in literature, and an appreciation for the richness including games in writing can offer readers, writers, and scholars alike.