Call for papers:

The graduate students of the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine invite submissions for its annual conference, "Play: Towards a Critical Concept."

April 4-5, 2008

Because play is found undecideably split between the boundary of seriousness and unseriousness, it thus remains for us an ambiguous concept. It is often associated with frivolity, waste, and childishness, and in this way becomes a dismissed or marginalized concept. At the same time, however, it has also been intimately connected with creativity, diplomacy, and the sacred. We ask to what extent play can become a critical point of engagement in the fields of critical theory, literary studies, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, psychology, and rhetoric. In what ways can play intersect, intervene, and inform the critique of politics, culture, and society?

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

  • commodification of play (uses and abuses of free time)
  • play of the signifier
  • child's play
  • play as resistance
  • leisure (leisure time, social activity)
  • institutionalized play (professional sports, war games and training, education)
  • games (board games, social games, head games, games of chance, games of the everyday)
  • play and simulation (representation, legitimation, ritual, magic)
  • serious play
  • play and the body
  • foreplay
  • power plays (from coup d'etat to corporate takeover)
  • play as fantasy and imagination
  • play and politics/diplomacy
  • play of boundaries
  • rules and laws
  • language games (translation, play between languages)
  • animal play
  • play and survival
  • the history of play
  • the philosophy of play
  • ecology of games
  • mapping play
  • play as socialization (object relations, psychic and material processes)
  • toys, dolls, automata

The deadline for the submission of 250-word abstract is February 15, 2008. Presentations are to be 20 minutes in length. Send proposals to Please include your name, email address, institution and phone number with the abstract.

Conference sponsorship generously provided by the Departments of Comparative Literature, English, French, German, and Anthropology, the International Center for Writing and Translation, the Office of the Vice Chancellor, the Critical Theory Emphasis and Critical Theory Institute, Postmodern Culture, the Associated Graduate Students, the Humanities Center, and the Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies.