Games and Literary Theory 2013

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PhD seminar

PhD seminar in connection with the Games And Literary Theory conference, Malta, Oct 31st – Nov 2nd

Games and Subjectivity: Text, Experience, Identity and the Self


Espen Aarseth, IT University of Copenhagen

Hans-Joachim Backe, Ruhr Universität Bochum

Joyce Goggin, University of Amsterdam

Jonas Linderoth, Gothenburg University

Date and time of the Seminar

November 2, 2013, 9.00 – 17.00

Application deadline EXTENDED: Monday, September 30th

To apply for the course, follow below instructions and send an email to

Course description

In any field of academic discourse within which the question emerges, subjectivity is a concept that delineates contested ground. It is a term that lies at the intersection of philosophy, psychology, cultural studies and the social sciences, and each discipline has offered its own – frequently conflicting – understandings of what it means to be a subject.

On the one hand, we have the irreducible Kantian self that is the ground of all experience, but that cannot itself be the object of experience – a notion of subjectivity that eventually developed into the first-person existential standpoint of classic phenomenology (Husserl; Heidegger 2008[1927]). On the other hand, we have the notion of the subject as the addressee of the ideological codes and social apparata that turn her into the site of a discourse of power (Althusser 1971; Foucault 2000). Still elsewhere we have the idea of the narrative of the subject, emerging as a unified a posteriori construct from the undifferentiated stream of experience (Giddens 1991; Ricoeur 1992). Beyond this, we can also mention the new directions into which posthumanism has pointed the discussion (Haraway 1991).

At the heart of all these theoretical endeavours are vital questions regarding self-awareness, identity, agency and the subjective construction of our experience of the world. This PhD seminar will be concerned with tracing the implications that such questions bring to bear upon the study of games. Therefore, the considerations that will prove central to the discussion include games’ formal construction of subjective experiential positions, questions of player agency and restrictions, the role of the avatar in determining subjectivity, the positioning of games within (or in opposition to) dominant social and ideological discourses of subjectivity and identity, and the impact of games on players’ subjectivity and identity.

Thus, this seminar will provide PhD students from such diverse fields as philosophy, psychology, cultural studies and the social sciences with a unique opportunity to discuss and engage with a key concept through the lens of game studies.


09:00 – 11:00: Lecturers’ position papers

11:00 – 13:00: Student presentations

13:00 – 14:00: Lunch

14:00 – 16:00: Student presentations

16:00 – 17:00: Individual feedback


The seminar is open to any current PhD students with an interest in the question of subjectivity in games. A reading list shall be assigned to participants in the conference. Knowledge of the texts shall be assumed. To be considered, you must include a letter from your PhD supervisor confirming your enrolment in a relevant PhD program, and a short (1/2 page) description of your PhD dissertation project. Students with a research background and focus relevant to the seminar topic will be preferred.

There is no fee for the PhD seminar, but accepted students are expected to register for the Games and Literary Theory conference.


Reading list:

Hacking, I. (2004). “Between Michel Foucault and Erving Goffman: Between discourse in the abstract and face-to-face interaction”. Economy and Society, 33, 277–302.

Krzywinska, T. 2007. “Being a Determined Agent in (the) World of Warcraft: Text/Play/Identity”. In Atkins, B. & Kryzwinska, T. (ed.), Videogame, Player, Text. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 101–119.

Linderoth, J., & Bennerstedt, U. (2007). “Living in World of Warcraft: the thoughts and experiences of ten young people”. Statens Medieråd. Retrieved from

Ricoeur, Paul. 1992. “The Question of Selfhood”. In Blamey, K. (trans.), Oneself As Another. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, pp. 1–26.

Waggoner, Zach. 2009. My Avatar, My Self. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, pp. 21–47.

Zahavi, Dan. 2008. “Consciousness and Self”. In Subjectivity and Selfhood: Investigating the First-Person Perspective. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 99–146.


Students will submit a position paper which will be evaluated by the teachers. Deadline: October 20th.




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