Gaming, Glitching, and the Playerly Text: Strategies for the Twentieth-Century Novel

Ferguson, Andrew, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Wicke, Jennifer, Department of English, University of Virginia

Modes of play developed by videogamers reveal alternate methods of textual navigation and critical engagement within complex narratives. These discourses meet in the playerly text, at once a mode of textual encounter, the textual space itself, and an ethics of critical agency—presently (if imperfectly) realized in the gaming webcasts known as Let’s Plays, and embedded within communities devoted to mutual encouragement and community care. This movement toward the playerly text is anticipated by major literary works in their own complex reading protocols, elaborated in collaborative performances within various media, and manifested in alternative digital modes of resistance against increasing corporate and state attempts to control story itself. The first chapter examines the playerly as a textual mode, developing new strategies for works such as Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, Super Mario Bros., and Portal. The second chapter routes movement through the collective textual space of the playerly through collaborative navigations of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, Colson Whitehead’s Zone One, Metroid, and Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. The third chapter explores the battle for control over narrative authority and emergent social agency in texts ranging from Ursula Le Guin’s Tehanu, Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Pokémon. A final coda considers, via Final Fantasy VI and the novels of David Mitchell, how we might prepare and preserve space for marginal and often excluded perspectives in a broken world.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
American literature, British literature, media studies, videogames, critical theory
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: