Playthings in Early Modernity: Party Games, Word Games, Mind Games


Playthings in Early Modernity: Party Games, Word Games, Mind Games

ISBN: 9781580442602


Why do we play games—with and upon each other as well as ourselves? When are winners also losers, and vice-versa? How and to what end do we stretch the spaces of play? What happens when players go “out of bounds,” or when games go “too far”? Moreover, what happens when we push the parameters of inquiry: when we play with traditional narratives of ludic culture, when we rewrite the rules?

An innovative volume of fifteen interdisciplinary essays at the nexus of material culture, performance studies, and game theory, Playthings in Early Modernity emphasizes the rules of the game(s) as well as the breaking of those rules. Thus, the titular “plaything” is understood as both an object and a person, and play, in the early modern world, is treated not merely as a pastime, a leisurely pursuit, but as a pivotal part of daily life, a strategic psychosocial endeavor.


Introduction: Playing the Field by Allison Levy
Performing Pictures: Parlor Games and Visual Engagement in Ascanio de’ Mori’s Giuoco piacevole by Kelli Wood
“Mixt” and Matched: Dance Games in Late Sixteenth- and Early Seventeenth-Century Europe by Emily F. Winerock
Ludic Intermingling/Ludic Discrimination: Women’s Card Playing and Visual Proscriptions in Early Modern Europe by Antonella Fenech Kroke
Leonardo da Vinci, Parody, and Pictorial Magic by Chriscinda Henry
Letter Games: Machiavelli and Guicciardini in Carnivalesque Correspondence by Sergius Kodera
The Rules of Passion and Pastime: The Game of Lurch in a Late Renaissance Poem by Manfred Zollinger
“Sportes and Pastimes, done by Number”: Mathematical Games in Early Modern England by Jessica Marie Otis
Predictive Play: Wheels of Fortune in the Early Modern Lottery Book by Jessen Kelly
Virtuous Vices: Giuseppe Maria Mitelli’s Gambling Prints and the Social Mapping of Leisure and Gender in Post-Tridentine Bologna by Patricia Rocco
Trading and Trick Taking in the Dutch Republic: Pasquin’s Wind Cards and the South Sea Bubble by Joyce Goggin
The Problem of Excessive Play: Renaissance Strategies of Ludic Governmentality by Andreas Hermann Fischer
Imaginary Cartographies and Commercial Commodities: Geography and Playing Cards in Early Modern England by Serina Patterson
Land of Elusion: Portuguese Perceptions and the Matter of Play and Gaming in Vijayanagara by Elke Rogersdotter
Visual Frames and Breaking the Rules of the Reconquista: Chess and Alfonso X, el Sabio’s Libro de ajedrez, dados, y tablas by Nhora Lucía Serrano
The Prisoners’ Dilemma: Strategies and Ruses in the Inquisitorial Jails of Early Modern Cuenca by Patrick J. O’Banion

Author Bio(s)

Allison Levy is an art historian specializing in the visual culture of early modern Italy. She has written and/or edited three previous scholarly books.

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Medieval Institute Publications