James Harriman-Smith: "Performing Games in the Early Eighteenth Century"

  • Date: –17:00
  • Location: Engelska parken 6-0023 (Danius Room)
  • Organiser: Department of Literature in association with the Uppsala Interdisciplinary Eighteenth-Century Seminar Series
  • Contact person: Jules Kielmann
  • Seminarium

The Uppsala Interdisciplinary Eighteenth-Century Seminar Series

Research presentation by James Harriman-Smith, Newcastle University.


What happens when you embed a game, of cards, of dice, of something else entirely, inside a work of literature? Ranging across early eighteenth-century plays and poems in French and English, this talk reflects on how we might answer this question and how the answers might shed new light on our engagement with literature and games in any period. Following Gina Bloom’s work on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century stage games (2018) and recent studies of ‘presence’ in eighteenth-century literature (Ballaster, 2020; Roach, 2022), I suggest that embedded games in the 1700s create a specific kind of presence effect, one which captures audience attention while also inviting that audience to look beyond the game itself to the larger relationships and machinations that a moment of play within a performance temporarily focalizes. To make this suggestion I rely not only on close readings of literary sources and other historical accounts of gaming, but also on my own experience playing long-forgotten games of chance and partial information.