“Play taunts us with its inaccessibility,” says animal play researcher Robert Fagen. “We feel that something is behind it all, but we do not know, or have forgotten how to see it.” We ask: What is the role of play in society? Where, when, and why do we play? Who’s allowed to play? Who feels comfortable playing? These questions animate the Ludics seminar where scholars and practitioners from a variety of humanistic and scientific disciplines, ranging from art, design, architecture, dance, and politics, all the way to psychiatry and physics are invited to deeply consider why play matters. Why does play matter for the future of our cities? Why does play matter for democracy? Why does play matter for our health? In the 2019-20 calendar, we present a series of curated conversations between seemingly disparate perspectives and traditions in order to prompt new insights into the meaning and purpose of play in the world.

Upcoming Events

Herb Childress, Author
Diana Ramirez-Jasso, Boston Architectural College
Childhood in Space: Approaches to How Young People Occupy and Employ the Landscape
Monday, November 18, 2019 - 6:30pm
Room 133, Barker Center


In this seminar, Dr. Ramirez-Jasso and Dr. Childress will discuss some of the ways in which young people have been thought to express agency over the physical spaces of their lives. From Rousseau's educational landscapes and the original German kindergarten, to the 21st century phenomena of skate parks, hangouts and flash mobs, we will examine young people's spatiality, and ask the seminar participants to bring examples of their own that might expand or challenge our understanding of children in space.

Seminar participants are asked to bring examples of young people's use of the physical world, and to consider how those examples can illuminate larger meanings of play, social life, and apprenticeship into adult culture.

More specifically, Dr. Ramirez-Jasso: Exploring the historical imagery of seeds, gardens, and cultivation in the realm of early childhood education, Dr. Ramirez-Jasso examines the mythology of the "natural" child that permeated discussions of early European pedagogy. Through discussions of educational technology and labor, she engages Enlightenment theories that redefined children's and women's right to "occupy" space. Dr. Herb Childress: Dr. Childress will discuss some of his research among American teenagers, and the ways in which their social lives are expressed (and constrained) spatially. He is especially interested in questions raised by a necessarily territorial approach to occupancy within tenure-based legal and financial modes of adult organization.

Speaker biographies

Herb Childress is the author of The Adjunct Underclass (U. Chicago Press, 2019) and The PhDictionary (U. Chicago Press, 2016), as well as Landscapes of Betrayal, Landscapes of Joy: Curtisville in the Lives of its Teenagers (SUNY Press, 2000). He received his PhD in architecture from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, after an undergraduate degree in architecture from Berkeley. He has taught at Duke University and at the Boston Architectural College, been a senior administrator and accreditation manager in higher education, and worked in private design research practice. He is now a full-time writer, at work on both nonfiction and fiction from his home in rural Vermont.

Diana Ramirez-Jasso is currently a faculty member in the History and Theory of Design and former provost of The Boston Architectural College. Her research interests span the history and theory of interiors, buildings, gardens, and landscapes, particularly as they intersect with discourses stemming from literature, philosophy, pedagogy, and art. Diana's work has focused on the perceived relationships between designed spaces and the shaping of human subjectivity through a study of the historical encounters between the architecture, gardens, education, and the history of childhood. Diana received a PhD in the History and Theory of Architecture and a Master of Arts in Architecture from Harvard University, and a Master of Science in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art from MIT. She also holds a professional degree in architecture from the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente in Mexico. She has taught at Harvard, MIT, and the ITESO, and has received numerous recognitions and awards, including a Thesis Prize from MIT and a Fulbright fellowship.

Co-sponsored by The Engagement Lab, Emerson College and Citizen TALES Commons

Past Events 2019 - 20

Peter Gray, Boston College
Peter Levine, Tufts University
The Role of Play in Human Evolution and Public Life: Work, or Play?

Past Events 2018 - 19

Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University
Sport Matters: On Art, Social Artifice, and Athletics, or, the Politics of Sport
Miguel Angel Sicart, IT University, Copenhagen, Denmark
Play and the Machines
Shigehisa Kuriyama, Harvard University
How the Invention of New Games Could Revitalize the Humanities

Past Events 2017 - 18

Yiorgos Anagnostou, Ohio State University
Immigrant Poetics
Catalina Florina Florescu, Pace University
The Interplay of Ekphrastic Readings of Femininity Post-Mastectomy
Danielle Freedman, Independent Scholar
How many ‘Ακρόπολη’s (Acropolis’s)? Nikolaos Kalas' ‘Ακρόπολη’ (Acropolis)
Vladimir Bošković, Independent Scholar
Taming the Tyche: From Surrealist Games to Austere Style in European Modernism
Sarah Green, State University of New York, Fredonia
How To Catch A Falling Knife: Poetic Play as the Practice of Negative Capability
Leslie Frost, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
“Don’t Be Mean" And Other Lessons from Federal Theatre Project Children’s Plays
Citizen Read
Whiteness/Blackness: Responses to Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric and The White Card
Pierre Taminiaux, Georgetown University
Ludics as Transgression: From Surrealism to the Absurd to Pataphysics
Stephen Kidd, Brown University
Paidia: The Concept of Play in Ancient Greece
Zenovia Toloudi, Dartmouth College
Technoecologies: The Interplay of Space and its Perception
Marina Hatsopoulos, Founding CEO of Z Corporation
The Agon Within: New, Useful and Nonobvious

Past Events 2016 - 17

Carmen-Francesca Banciu, Levure Littéraire
Transforming Materiality into Immateriality through Play: Reflections on the Intersection of Literature and Art
Timothy Moore, Washington University in St. Louis
Ludic Music in Ancient Greek and Roman Theater
Demosthenes Agrafiotis, Poet and Artist
Crisis, Performance: Inter/multi/plays
Chrysostomos Stamoulis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Did Jesus Christ Laugh?
Shé Mackenzie Hawke, University of Sydney
The Play of Water from Mythic Metis to the Contemporary Beach: The Poetics of Aquamorphia
Elena Mancini, Queens College in New York City
Reflections on Playful Prose and the Art of Translation
Eric Gordon, Emerson College and Harvard University
Meaningful Inefficiencies: Caring for Civics in an Age of Smart Cities
Elsa Amanatidou, Brown University
Playing with Narratives: Digital Storytelling and Intercultural Interventions in the L2 Classroom
Anna Winestein, Harvard University, Boston University
Transmental Games and Travestied Experiments: Costumed Balls, Cross-Dressing, Role-Playing, Theatricality, and More Among Russian Artists in Paris 1870-1930
Aikaterini Ioannidou, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Play of Forces: From Atoms to Cities
Ani Gjika, Poet, Literary Translator, Teacher
Playing Both Sides: Where Language Teaching and Creative Literary Translation Intersect

Past Events 2015 - 16

Mary Flanagan, Dartmouth College
Constance Rinaldo, Harvard University
Purposeful Gaming
Andromache Karanika, University of California, Irvine
Τhe Dissonance of Ludic Poetics in Greek 
Wedding Song Tradition: A Workshop on the "Interdiscursivity" between the Epithalamia and the Laments in Greek Antiquity
Franziska Naether, University of Leipzig
Casino Royale in Ancient Skyscrapers? On Recent Finds from Roman Tower Houses in Tuna el-Gebel (Egypt)
Danuta Fjellestad, Uppsala University
The Ludic Impulse in Post-Postmodern Fiction
Christian Gütl, Graz University of Technology
Johanna Pirker, Graz University of Technology
Crossing: Virtual Experiences, Games, and Teaching
Panos Panay, BerkleeICE
Creativity and Entrepreneurship
John Robinson-Appels, Columbia University
Comedy, Physicality, and Ludic Dance Gestures
Maria Zervos, Emerson College
The Interplay of Poetry and the Moving Image in the Art of Maria Zervos
Panos Bosnakis, Center of Avant-Garde Studies
The Greatest Mother of All that is Called Poetry
Dean Kostos, Award-Winning Poet
Scheme and Schemata: Endless Play

Past Events 2014 - 15

Zoa Alonso Fernández, Harvard University
Ludi, Ludic, Ludicrous: Choreographing Rome from Spartacus to Caligula
James N. Stone, Boston University
Playing Scrabble with Sappho: A Translation Workshop for Anyone Interested in the Interplay of Poetry, Translation, and Play
Mary Yossi, University of Athens
Laughter in Greek Lyric Poetry
Nicole Nolette, Harvard University
Games Translators Play in Bilingual French-Canadian Theater

Past Events 2013 - 14

Amy Ogata, Bard Graduate Center
Playing with Design: Cultivating Childhood Creativity in Postwar America
Brian Waniewski
Playing to Engage: How to Revitalize Society
Patrick Hutchinson, Brown University
Panayotis League, Harvard University
Tom Zajac, Wellesley College
Sounds from Europe's Margins: Bagpipes in Boston