the rhetoric of play


spring 2007

ryan moeller, ph.d.

w 4:30-7:00

rwst 308


rwst 312b

This syllabus and all the materials under this domain are subject to change at my discretion. However, these documents do represent the general requirements and criteria for the course to the best of my knowledge at the time they are posted.


Attendance in this seminar is mandatory. This means that each time we meet, you should come to our discussion prepared with the completed reading for our meeting and any ancillary materials required by the syllabus and your own preparation for our discussions. Your participation in the discussions is also required, and your comments should be well-prepared and appropriate for a graduate seminar.

office hours

My office hours are 1:00-3:00 and by appointment in the Ray B. West building, room 312B. My office number is 797-8637 or you may reach me via email at

course texts

The required texts for this course are:

Caillois, R. (2001). Man, Play, and Games. University of Illinois Press. ISBN: 025207033X.

Huizinga, J. (1971). Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture. Boston, MA: Beacon. ISBN: 0-8070-4681-7.

Johnson, S. (2005). Everthing Bad is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making us Smarter. Riverhead. ISBN: 1573223077.

Kline, S., Dyer-Witheford, N., and De Peuter, G. (2003). Digital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture, and Marketing. Ithaca, NY: McGill-Queen's UP.

McAllister, K. S. (2004). Game Work: Language, Power, and Computer Game Culture. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press.

Sutton-Smith, B. (2001). The Ambiguity of Play. Harvard UP. ISBN: 0674005813.

I will also be assigning additional readings in class as needed. These will be made available to you in hardcopy format or in electronic format from this website. In order to read electronic documents, you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader, available free here.


To successfully complete this course, you must attend class and all scheduled conferences, complete all assignments on time, prepare for class, and participate in class activities and discussions. You will not receive a passing grade in this class unless you have completed all major assignments. Late essays or drafts will not be accepted without penalty unless you have made arrangements for an extension at least 48 hours prior to the due date. Late papers will be graded down one grade level per business day late. You are required to retain copies of all of your writing throughout the entire semester.

For grading criteria of the different types of assignments, please see the benchmarks page. The following is a breakdown of the final grade:

participation and position papers

40 (best 8 out of 9)

research proposal, including journal review


seminar paper




grammar and mechanics

I assume you have a standard competency in grammar and mechanics and will be able to demonstrate this to the class. You will not pass this course unless you possess such a competency. If your final projects contain multiple mistakes per page-equivalent, you will not receive a passing grade. If you feel that you may need some help in this area, even more than we will cover in class, please contact me so we can make arrangements early in the semester.

academic dishonesty and plagiarism

You are expected to do your own original work in this seminar. Whenever you borrow graphics, quote passages, or use ideas from others, you are legally and ethically obliged to acknowledge that use, following appropriate conventions for documenting sources. To borrow someone else’s writing without acknowledging that use is an act of academic as well as professional dishonesty, whether you borrow an entire report or a single sentence. An act of plagiarism will result in an E for the course and will be reported to the proper university administrators. All USU students are responsible for upholding the Student Code of Academic Integrity, available in electronic format at:

In addition to following the basic principles of fair use of others’ work and honesty and forthrightness in crediting the contribution of others to your work, you are expected to adhere to this basic professional principle: treat others with the respect that you would wish them to grant you. "Others" includes the people you work for and with (classmates, instructors, corporations, clients); the people you write to (audiences); and the people you write about.

students with disabilities

Students who require reasonable accommodations in order to fully participate in the course should document the disability with the Disability Resource Center (797-2444) and contact me within the first week of the course. Any request for special consideration relating to attendance, pedagogy, taking of examinations, etc., must be discussed with and approved by me. In cooperation with the Disability Resource Center, course materials can be provided in alternative format, large print, audio, diskette, or Braille.


I will be available in class, during office hours, and by appointment to answer any questions that you may have.

One of the areas I research involves the study of the effects of electronic technology on labor practices, one of which is the elimination of the boundaries between work time and non-work time. I do not consider this to be ethical. Many employers now have 24-hours-a-day access to their employees, and in fact, in a number of jobs (including mine) workers are expected to set aside a part of the non-working day to receive work-related electronic messages. This practice has become so routine, most of us no longer notice that we are spending more and more of our non-working time keeping in touch with work. I find these practices abhorrent because they assume that our entire lives should be in the service of employment; they are also resulting in a lot of unpaid labor.

We are all learning new ways to survive in this increasingly wired society; one way I choose to survive is by not becoming a slave to availability. I hope the same for my students in their work lives. I am willing to use the variety of print and electronic media available to help you perform to the best of your abilities. However, I am not willing to use electronic media for the following reasons:

  • to be available to you 24 hours a day.
  • to answer any logistical questions about assignments, scheduling, or deadlines.
  • to tell you what you missed if you have been absent (consult the syllabus or a classmate).
  • to give you private lessons in lieu of attending class.
  • anything else that is inappropriate for a student to expect a teacher to do.