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Title: The Foibles of Play: Three Case Studies on Play in the Interwar Years
Authors: Johnson, Colette E.
Advisors: Fuss, Diana
Contributors: English Department
Keywords: Ainsworth
Subjects: English literature
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: In the modern era, the academic scale has tipped towards an understanding of play that is reified in the sciences. Yet these perspectives are neither the only ones available, nor the most effective at understanding the concept of playing. How well do we understand the implications of 20th century attitudes towards play? How do we know when something is just play? What kind of cultural work does play perform? This dissertation, focused on the boundary between playing and reality, offers its own answers to problems that arise when we think about, question, or doubt the division between playing and harm. The following chapters analyze this complex and intimate relationship between playing and harm. My intent is not to define, classify, catalog, ameliorate, moralize, or revise theories of play. Instead, I want to know what is at the heart of the repeated encounters of playing and harm, which reoccur at moments in which play transgresses (or appears to transgress) boundaries between playing and reality. Working across the fields of philosophy, psychoanalysis, clinical psychology, and literature, I explore how the questions, the concerns, the preoccupations (personal and political) of a core group of psychoanalysts working in the mid-20th century have brought us to where we are today. My chapters focus on psychoanalysts who engage closely with the boundary that separates a potential for harm implicit in play from actual violence. My first chapter moves beyond Freud’s theory of trauma to understand the origins of the relationship between play and psychoanalysis through the story of the fort-da. The following chapters center on four mid-century play theorists, D.W. Winnicott, Harry Harlow, Mary Ainsworth, and John Bowlby, who are linked by their desire to study the child’s mind as a site through which to respond to social and political problems having to do with war and aggression. Chapter Two situates playing within ethical, historical, and psychoanalytic discourses about cruelty to recover a positive notion of aggression. Chapter Three examines the dangers that result from scientific attempts to control love or play.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:English

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