(Ex)pressing Play: Harvard–Brown Chiasmi Graduate Conference of Italian Studies

deadline for submissions: 
February 5, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Harvard University
contact email: 

Please note: the deadline for the submission of abstracts is extended until February 5, 2017. 

(Ex)pressing Play

Harvard–Brown Chiasmi Conference of Italian Studies

Harvard University

April 7-8, 2017


Keynote Speaker: Professor Marco Arnaudo (Indiana University Bloomington)

We invite papers for a graduate student conference on play in the Italian tradition to be held at Harvard University on April 7-8, 2017.

The relevance of play to questions of cultural formation and maintenance has been observed by several critics. Johan Huizinga in Homo Ludens argues that the concept of play lies at the bottom of any operation of human society. Within that argument, Huizinga assigns a fundamental affinity between play and order, writing that play “creates order, is order” and reasoning that play’s aesthetic drive toward beauty leads to the creation of orderly form. John Dewey in Art as Experience observes a similar process in play by children, which, in his view, involves the ordering of activities and materials toward a creative end. While this conference is interested in the order of play – its forms, rules, and limits – it is also motivated by a desire to understand how play disrupts any prevailing sense of order, in a manner similar to that observed by Bakhtin on the transgressive and comic aspects of the carnivalesque. How is playfulness in Italian literature and culture used to signal inventiveness? How does it lay claim to new thought? And how does it, in turn, invite the audience to put their minds “in play”?

This conference aims to explore the rich vein of play and playfulness, not solely in literature, but in other creative forms born from and informing Italian culture, such as music, theater, games, sport, media, and technology. Play has enduring and varied connections to Italian literature and culture: the atteggiamento del gioco assumed by authors such asBoccaccioand Calvino, the linguistic experimentalism of the neoavanguardia, the conventional or radical interactions between poetry and music in Renaissance madrigalisms, and even the Montessori method.

We welcome contributions that engage with the topic of play in the Italian tradition from students working in a wide range of disciplines and using varying methodologies.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

·   Portrayals of historical and contemporary sport

·   Uses of narrative and history in board games and video games

·   Pedagogical strategies of guided play

·   Instances of wordplay, rebuses, or creative substitution in literary texts

·   Verbal or pictorial manipulations as memory aiding devices

·   Innovation, contention, or humor in musical texts

·   Representations of the ludic or the carnivalesque in the visual arts

Presentations are not to exceed 20 minutes and may be given in either Italian or English. Please send abstracts of 250 words as a .doc file to chiasmi2017@gmail.com by 15 January 2017. The title of the paper and the name, affiliation, and e-mail address of the presenter should appear on a cover sheet, as well as any requests for technical equipment.