the rhetoric of play


spring 2007

ryan moeller, ph.d.

w 4:30-7:00

rwst 308


rwst 312b

course description and objectives

In At Play in the Fields of Writing: A Serio-Ludic Rhetoric, Albert Rouzie writes,

We have inherited the notion of play as the opposite of work. This has led us to experience work as alienated labor and to think of adult play as irrelevant and inconsequential.

Yet, as many of the play scholars we will read this semester argue, the notion of play can and often does incorporate seriousness, labor, and indeed, work. The converse is also true, that work often and can include many activities usually associated with play. Many contemporary workplaces are beginning to foster play discourse and playful activities as a part of their employees' productive work environments. The computer game industry, along with the entire entertainment industry (including the television, film, and computer electronics industries), all demonstrate an important intersection in our culture between work (or labor) and play (or entertainment).

In this graduate seminar, we will investigate play theory in order to better understand how play as a concept is used in the workplace, in the market, and in other areas of everyday life. Who benefits from the current dialectic between work and play? Where is this opposition being blurred? By whom? Who demonstrates agency when play is discussed, especially when it is used to denote the opposite of productive activities such as work?

Upon completing this course, you should be able to

  • identify critical cultural contradictions productive of research in the humanities;
  • understand methodologies appropriate for understanding complex, cultural artifacts;
  • perform effectively and overcome obstacles in a seminar environment;
  • manage short- and long-term benchmark goals;
  • demonstrate the ethical, educational, and workplace dimensions of rhetoric;
  • design and implement appropriate strategies for researching, designing, and producing graduate-level research; and
  • demonstrate the value of constructive criticism through successful drafting and revision strategies.