ENG 342, Studies in Popular Genres: “Playful Literature and Literary Games

Course Flyer for ENG 342, Spring 2020

Course Description

This course will explore methods and approaches to studying popular genres through the critical study of two particular popular genres: “Playful Literature” and “Literary Games.” Playful Literature is literature that offers readers some agency and control over narrative outcomes, while Literary Games are those ludic (meaning, “game-ic”) artifacts that provide readers with some narrative impulse behind their actions. To do so, we will be viewing these ludic artifacts through a primary critical lens: the theory of play. Thus, in this course, we will be analyzing literature and games as storytelling vehicles and look to understand popular literature by understanding the intersections and diversions between different popular mediums.

ENG 342 will culminate in a project where students will forge their own entry point into these popular genres by creating a literary game in the form of a game-zine. Because zines are an intimate literary form designed for smallscale distribution and are handcrafted, the zine stands as a perfect entry point to blending scholarship with creation, design with theory.  This zine will 1) be publicly shown at a zine showcase on MSU’s campus in Spring 2020, and 2) be contributed to the MSU Library’s Special Collection on Zines.

Course Materials

  • Theory
    • Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture by Johan Huizinga
    • “Gaming Literacy: Game Design as a Model for Literacy in the Twenty-First Century” by Eric Zimmerman
    • An Introduction to Game Studies: Games in Culture by Frans Mayra
  • Content
    • Tetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown
    • Choose Your Own Adventure #1: The Abominable Snowman by R.A. Montgomery and Laurence Peguy
    • Dungeons on a Dime: Quest 1 – In the Red by Brian Tyrell (Digital)
    • Make a Zine: When Words and Graphics Collide by Bill Brent and Joe Biel
    • Preparing the Ghost by Adam Vass (https://worldchampgameco.itch.io/preparing-the-ghost)

A note on COVID-19

On March 11th, 2020, Michigan State University announced that the remained of the Spring 2020 semester would take place online to protect students, staff, and faculty from the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, one of the core components of the course, a zine showcase that was to take place on April 7th, 2020, did not take place. However, the students were able to have their zines remotely printed by the MSU Library’s publishing services, and have had their zines donated to the MSU Library’s Special Collection on Zines.