2015-2016 Theme:
The Phenomenology of Playing

In his Essais, Montaigne suggests that “Childrens playes are not sportes, and should be deemed as their most serious actions” (Florio translation, 1603). Three hundred years later, Sigmund Freud maintains that “it would be wrong to think” that a child at play does not take his imagined “world seriously . . . The opposite of play is not what is serious but what is real” (“Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming,” 1907). This year, we are considering notions of play (broadly construed) in early modern literature from a phenomenological perspective: how can we understand play as lived experience or lived experience as play in early modern texts? Taking our cue from recent scholarly developments in historical phenomenology and in the study of affect, emotion, cognition, and design, we are looking for papers that attend seriously to play in various early modern manifestations. If play and seriousness are conjoined, as Montaigne and Freud write, what serious work does play perform, and how do play and playfulness reflect, distort, shape or create the realities they resist, enjoy, or inhabit?

Events 2015-2016


Young_Lady_with_a_Bird_and_DogAnnual EMC Conference | Play’s the Thing: Phenomenology and Play in Early Modern Literature, 1500-1800 | March 4-5, 2016
Keynote Speakers: Laura Engel (Duquesne University), James A. Knapp (Loyola University Chicago), and Bruce Smith (University of Southern California)
Alumni Hall (Mosher Alumni House) & McCune Conference Room (HSSB 6020)

In his Essais, Montaigne suggests that “Childrens playes are not sportes, and should be deemed as their most serious actions” (Florio translation, 1603). Three hundred years later, Sigmund Freud maintains that “it would be wrong to think” that a child at play does not take his imagined “world seriously . . . The opposite of play is not what is serious but what is real” (“Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming,” 1907). We are seeking papers that take up notions of play (broadly construed) in early modern literature from a phenomenological perspective: how can we understand play as lived experience or lived experience as play in early modern texts? Taking our cue from recent scholarly developments in historical phenomenology and in the study of affect, emotion, cognition, and design, we are looking for papers that attend seriously to play in various early modern manifestations. If play and seriousness are conjoined, as Montaigne and Freud write, what serious work does play perform, and how do play and playfulness reflect, distort, shape or create the realities they resist, enjoy, or inhabit?

Conference Details

“Phenomenology and Play” Call for Papers | “Phenomenology and Play” Website


Roze Hentschell Lecture | October 1, 2015EMC Flyer- Hentschell, 2015.jpg
“Church, Playhouse, Market, Home: The Cultural Geography of St. Paul’s Precinct, 1561-1625”
Roze Hentschell (Colorado State University)
South Hall 2635, 4:00 PM

Roze Hentschell is Professor and Assistant Chair of English at Colorado State University. Her book, The Culture of Cloth in Early Modern England: Textual Constructions of a National Identity, a study of the English wool industry and trade from 1580-1615, was published by Ashgate Press (2008). She is the co-editor of Masculinity and the Metropolis of Vice, 1550-1650, with Amanda Bailey (Palgrave 2010) and Essays in Memory of Richard Helgerson: Laureations, with Kathy Lavezzo (U of Delaware Press 2012). Other recent publications include: a biographical essay on Thomas Deloney for The Blackwell Encyclopedia of English Renaissance Literature (ed. Alan Stewart and Garrett Sullivan, 2011) and “Moralizing Apparel in Early Modern London: Sermons, Satire, and Sartorial Display” in the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (2009). She is currently working on a book project on the cultural geography of St. Paul’s Cathedral Precinct and a chapter, “St. Paul’s Precinct and the Cultural Geography of London,” for The Age of Shakespeare, ed. Malcolm Smuts (Oxford UP).

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A Playful Conversation with Julie Carlson and Aranye Fradenburg | November 13, 2015
Julie Carlson (English, UCSB)
L.O. Aranye Fradenburg (English, UCSB)
Sankey Room (South Hall 2623), 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM

A conversation with Julie Carlson and L.O. Aranye Fradenburg centering on precirculated readings of theirs regarding phenomenology and play.

Julie Carlson is a Professor in the English Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1985, and her central interests include: British Romanticism; early nineteenth-century British theater; the Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley family; theories of race and sexuality. She is the author of England’s First Family of Writers: Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, Mary Shelley, In the Theatre of Romanticism: Coleridge, Nationalism, Women; guest editor of Domestic/Tragedy (South Atlantic Quarterly) and various articles on romantic drama and theater.

Aranye Fradenburg is Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and Medieval Studies at UCSB, where she founded the English Department’s specialization in “Literature and the Mind.”  She also holds a Ph.D. in Psychoanalysis from the New Center for Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles, and practices psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy in Santa Barbara. She received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia and taught at Dartmouth College before moving to UCSB. Her particular interests are psychoanalytic theory and practice, interdisciplinary study of the mind and the environment, biopoetics, and English and Scottish medieval literature.  She has edited two essay collections, Women and Sovereignty (Edinburgh, 1994) and, with Carla Freccero, Premodern Sexualities (Routledge, 1996).  She  is the author of City, Marriage Tournament: Arts of Rule in Late Medieval Scotland (U. of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI, 1991); Sacrifice Your Love: Psychoanalysis, Historicism, Chaucer (U. of Minnesota Press, 2002); Staying Alive:  A Survival Manual for the Liberal Arts (punctum books:  Brooklyn, NY, 2013) and many articles on a variety of topics from medieval literature to cognitive literary studies and psychoanalytic technique.  Her work is the topic of Still Thriving, edited by Eileen A. Joy (punctum books:  Brooklyn, NY, 2013).  She is on the editorial board of several journals and a reviewer for the International Journal of Psychoanalysis. 

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Nun Appleton HouseJulie Park Lecture | November 19, 2015
“Making Storylines in the Country House Poem: Interiority and the Play of Perspective in Marvell’s Upon Appleton House
Julie Park (Vassar)
South Hall 2635, 5:00 PM

Andrew Marvell’s Upon Appleton House is known for exemplifying the seventeenth-century genre of the country house poem while also disrupting its conventions.  This paper suggests the generic liminality of Marvell’s poem anticipates the development of the domestic novel and its signature interiority.  That the poet in Upon Appleton House is conscious of his perspective as perspective in different parts of the estate that he roams throughout the poem models a new psychological experience of the manor house as an interactive environment rather than a fixed symbol of the owner’s virtues.  This paper will focus on the playful distortions of scale and anamorphic imagery in the poem’s meadow section as unrecognized precedents for the narrative technique of point of view.  It is this technique that produces the following century’s shape-shifting stories of mind taking place on country house estates, from Richardson to Austen.

Julie Park is Associate Professor of English at Vassar College, as well as a Visiting Research Associate at Caltech and a Resident Scholar of the Huntington.

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Crawford_1_207_2448x2448TALK and PERFORMANCE at UCI | “Ending with Music: Romeo and Juliet and the Renaissance Jig” | January 28, 2016
Matthew Smith (Asuza Pacific University)
English Broadside Ballad Archive Performance Group (UC Santa Barbara)
The Little Theater, Humanities Hall Ground Floor, UC Irvine, 6:00 PM

Renaissance plays, including tragedies, traditionally ended in a jig, a mixed form combining dance, music, and dramatic dialogue. Professor Matthew Smith (Azusa Pacific University) presents a lecture on Shakespeare and the jig tradition, with an emphasis on “Romeo and Juliet.” The lecture is followed by a demonstration-performance by the English Broadside Ballad Archive Performance Group from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

This special scholarship-and-performance event is co-sponsored by the Group for the Study of Early Cultures, the UCI Shakespeare Center, Illuminations, the Humanities Commons, and UCSB’s Early Modern Center.

Follow this link to register for the event! Attendance is free, but space is limited!

Event Details

Zoffany-Garrick_in_The_AlchemistTALK: Christopher Foley | February 5, 2016
“‘Breathe Less, and Farther Off’: The Hazardous Proximity of Other Bodies in Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist (1610)”
Christopher Foley (UCSB)
South Hall 2635, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

Although the threat of the plague is placed front and center in Jonson’s The Alchemist, I demonstrate in this presentation that the persistent threat of bodily vulnerability also informs the logic of the play in less obvious, yet profound, ways: from the promises of the philosopher’s stone to cure bodily ailments to the constant threat that the unexpected arrival of characters pose to the rogues’ precarious control of Lovewit’s house in the Blackfriars.  This latter aspect of Jonson’s site-specific dramaturgy would have been an especially salient consideration for the audience attending the London premiere of the play at the Blackfriars indoor theater in November 1610.  After demonstrating the more subtle and profound ways in which vulnerability to the plague ironically informs the logic of Jonson’s play, I turn my attention to the class-based tensions inherent in the uneven distribution of exposure to the plague in early modern London.  Not only did this mass exodus of ‘rich runaways’ such as Lovewit leave the city economically and socially in ruin; in the wake of such an exodus, the remaining population in London became susceptible to charlatans like Subtle, Dol, and Face.  Ultimately, I read Jonson’s ironic satire—especially its concluding scenes—alongside the moralizing plague pamphlets of fellow playwright Thomas Dekker to suggest that both writers critique the uneven social distribution of environmental hazard in early modern London.

Christopher Foley received his Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara in December 2015.

Event Details

WO2_B0549PUBLADVE_1790_02_19-0001-FTALK: Johanne Kristiansen | February 11, 2016
“Intended for Insertion: Newspaper Editing and Public Debate in England, 1790-1795”
Johanne Kristiansen (Dept. of Language and Literature, Norwegian University of Science and Technology)
South Hall 2635, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM

The outbreak of the French Revolution sparked a period of heated public debates in England known as the ‘Revolution Controversy’. Inspired by the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity, English liberals called for societal change, while conservatives sought to maintain the status quo. At the heart of debates were such key issues as parliamentary reform, religious toleration for nonconformists, and women’s rights. When exploring these issues, scholars have focused almost exclusively on books and pamphlets, leaving out the important contributions of periodicals and newspapers. The obvious reason for this oversight is the difficulty of working with these sources, due both to the mass of surviving material and the challenge of accessing it. However, in the course of the last 10 years or so, the field has been revolutionized by developments in digital media, and we are now on the brink of a shift which will unquestionably alter the way we work with historical newspapers and periodicals.

Based on the new opportunities for content analysis enabled by digital access to newspapers in online newspaper archives, such as the Times Digital Archive and the 17th- and 18th-century Burney Collection, my thesis attempts to adjust the skewed image of the print culture surrounding the revolution controversy. Based on an analysis of important content areas – more specifically editorial notices and political essays from outside contributors – in some of the leading newspapers of the period, I argue that the editors’ choices of what to include and exclude in their newspaper columns greatly affected the dynamics of public debate. Through a case study of a debate concerning religious dissent, I will argue that the editorial policies of newspaper editors played a crucial and formative role in the public exchange of opinions, by encouraging or discouraging certain topics and forcing political writers to seek alternative, and perhaps less suited, publication channels.

Johanne is a visiting Ph.D. student from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway, in the Department of Language and Literature. She is part of Enlightenment News, a research project launched in 2014 and currently funded until 2017, which springs from the mass digitization of newspapers and periodical publications from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The project explores how this archival development is changing our thinking about the history of news, and it interrogates how access to a huge archive of material – in a machine-readable format – is producing original knowledge and innovative practices within literary, cultural and media history.

Event Details

Panksepp-Young-editedSymposium | Jaak Panksepp and Kay Young | April 7, 2016
“Cognition, Phenomenology, Play”
Jaak Panksepp (Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience, Washington State University)
Kay Young (English, UCSB)
McCune Conference Room (HSSB 6020), 3:00 PM

In his talk, “Addicted to Emotion: How Affective Neuroscience Sheds Light on the Brain Sources of Consciousness and Our Love of the Arts,” Jaak Panksepp argues that the affective neuroscience understanding of human and other animal brain organization has provided evidence for a diverse set of inborn emotional systems, homologous across mammalian species that have been studied, albeit with interesting variations across individuals and across species (a basis for personality?).  They constitute part of our shared evolutionary heritage, and provide a basic experiential (affective) foundation for the rest of the mind. These systems, arising from ancient regions of the brain, may constitute the basis of consciousness itself. These affectively valenced action/feelings systems provide survival codes for living, and control much of our learning and cognitive decision-making:  Our primal fears teach us to seek safety.  Our playful joy cements friendships through the power of affectively positive companionships. Sexual arousal motivates us to reproduce, and in females this psychic energy, affectively transformed into nurturance, establishes moods for caring for others, especially infants, facilitating establishment of social bonds. All good literature, movies, music ride upon the diverse manifestations of the primal emotional powers of the mind: What could be more compelling? More endlessly fascinating?

We have named these primal emotional foundations of mind
i) SEEKING/Enthusiasm
ii) RAGE/Anger
iii) FEAR/Anxiety
iv) LUST/Passion
v) CARE/Nurturance
vi) PANIC/Grief
vii) PLAY/Joy.
Our work on three of these systems (SEEKING, PANIC and PLAY) has led to three novel anti-depressants for humans.  These powers of the mind also permeate our minds and our arts.  They may be the solid foundation for existence upon which our cognitive consciousness was built.

Jaak Panksepp is a psychologist, a psychobiologist, a neuroscientist, the Baily Endowed Chair of Animal Well-Being Science for the Department of Veterinary and Comparative Anatomy, Pharmacology, and Physiology at Washington State University’s College of  Veterinary Medicine, and Emeritus Professor of the Department of Psychology at Bowling Green State University. Panksepp coined the term “affective neuroscience,” the name for the field that studies the neural mechanisms of emotion. He is known in the popular press for his research on laughter in non-human animals.

Kay Young’s contribution to the symposium is “We Are Our Attachments: Panksepp, Phenomenology, Play and Shakespeare’s Second Acts.” “Rat laughter.”  Who but Jaak Panksepp would think to tickle rats and record the sounds they make in response at a decibel we can hear to help us imagine that some other animal might laugh?  “ ‘If this be magic, let it be an art lawful as eating.’”  And who but Shakespeare would bring back “from the dead” Hermione, wife of King Leontes ofThe Winter’s Tale to help us imagine a second chance at life and at love and to show us such magic is as real as eating?  In this talk, Kay Young brings Panksepp’s neuroaffective research on the primary process of play and philosopher Dan Zahavi’s work on intersubjective phenomenology to Shakespeare’s genre of Romance to consider how adult play, loss and time bring us to know—we are our attachments.

Kay Young’s central interests include literature and mind; the nineteenth-century English novel; classical Hollywood film; aesthetics; narrative; and comedy. She is author of Ordinary Pleasures: Couples, Conversation and Comedy and Imagining Minds: The Neuro-Aesthetics of Austen, Eliot, and Hardy.

Sponsored by the English Department’s Early Modern Center, the English Department’s Literature and the Mind Specialization and the IHC series The Humanities and the Brain.

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V0049245 The enraged musician: a street crowd with a ballad singer isTALK: Pamela Reinagel | May 5, 2016
“Ballads on the Brain”
Pamela Reinagel (Neuroscience, University of California, San Diego)
Location TBA, 3:30 PM

In this informal talk I will review disparate threads of evidence from neuroscience that offer hints about the emotional and social functions of traditional ballad singing in oral cultures. I will start by considering singing itself as a somatic practice that may aid physiological recovery from fight-or-flight reactions and promote general resilience to trauma. Then I will discuss the prevalence of death and emotional pain in traditional ballad texts, and speculate that the act of singing of such texts may be akin to somatic trauma therapies. Finally I will review the interaction of the associated brain structures with the neural substrates of empathy and attachment, suggesting a brain mechanism by which singing ballads to and with others could strengthen interpersonal and community bonds.

Pamela Reinagel is an Associate Professor of Neurobiology at the University of California, San Diego. As a theoretical neuroscientist, Dr. Reinagel specializes in visual perception and is currently researching how animals and humans select actions in spite of unresolvable uncertainty. As an avocational singer she is drawn to traditional ballad singing, leading to a curiosity about why these songs are so emotionally compelling, why they are so dark, and why they have persisted so long in oral tradition. She has hosted workshops at UCSD on the neural mechanisms of empathy, and others on oral tradition in folk songs, but this is the first time she brings these topics together.

Cosponsored by Literature and the Mind.

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Thetriumphofdeath_smallTALK: Liza Blake | May 16, 2016
“Lucy Hutchinson’s Non-Atomistic Lucretius: How the World Did Not Become Modern”
Liza Blake (English, University of Toronto)
Sankey Room (South Hall 2623), 2:00 PM

In Michel Serres and Bruno Latour’s Conversations on Science, Culture, and Time, Latour sums up a long discussion on temporality as follows: “So it’s the same two-pronged problem: to settle the problem of time, and to settle the problem of the sciences.” In the Conversations, and in Latour’s We Have Never Been Modern, Serres and Latour argue that periodization itself was inaugurated by the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. Blake’s paper will investigate these claims via a reading of Lucy Hutchinson’s mid-seventeeth-century translation of Lucretius’sDe Rerum Natura, itself a poem that has, to put it mildly, attracted some attention as a potential catalyst for modernity. An investigation of the epistemological claims of the poem, she will argue, has consequences for the ways we think about periodizing literature, science, and literature and science.

This talk will be given as a part of Andrew Griffin’s graduate seminar on “Modernity and Early Modernity.”

Liza Blake is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Toronto.

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Vincenzo Camuccini, "Morte di Cesare", 1798,

Bliss-Zimmerman Memorial Lecture | Gail Kern Paster | May 19, 2016
“‘After his sour fashion’: The Cognitive Ecology of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.”
Gail Kern Paster (Editor of Shakespeare Quarterly and Director Emerita of the Folger Shakespeare Library)
Henley Board Room (Mosher Alumni House), 4:00 PM

“Cognitive ecologies” is a term used to designate all the activities of deciding, contemplating, feeling and the environments in which they take place. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, centered upon a decision and its disastrous aftermath, the cognitive ecology is where the play in a real sense takes place. Paster will focus on two moments in the play – before and after the assassination – in order to argue that it is a key change in Brutus’s thinking from keen social observation to metaphor and adage that allows him to want to kill his friend.

Gail Kern Paster is the editor of Shakespeare Quarterly and Director Emerita of the Folger Shakespeare Library. In addition to this work, she has edited numerous editions of early modern plays, co-edited a collection of essays with Katherine Rowe entitled Reading the Early Modern Passions: Essays in the Cultural History of Emotion (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), and has published several monographs, including The Body Embarrassed: Drama and the Disciplines of Shame in Early Modern England (Cornell University Press, 1993), Humoring the Body: Emotions and the Shakespearean Stage (University of Chicago Press, 2004), and The Idea of the City in the Age of Shakespeare (University of Georgia Press, 2012).

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Theme-Related Events at the IHC

This year, the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center’s theme is “The Humanities and the Brain.” Below are their events that relate to our own theme of Phenomenology and Playing in the early modern period.

Kenneth S. Kosik Lecture | November 12, 2015
“Nature Spends the Past Few Million Years Experimenting with a Prosocial Brain”
Kenneth S. Kosik (The Neuroscience Research Institute, UCSB)
McCune Conference Room (HSSB 6020), 4:00 PM

Anjan Chatterjee Lecture | November 19, 2015
“The Neuroscience of Aesthetics and Art”
Anjan Chatterjee (Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania)
McCune Conference Room (HSSB 6020), 4:00 PM

2014-2015 Events →

Theme-Related Courses

Fall 2015

ENGL 231 | Studies in Renaissance Literature: Shakespeare and Phenomenology (Graduate)
Inspired by the Early Modern Center’s 2015-16 theme, “The Phenomenology of Playing,” this course will explore phenomenology in relation to Shakespeare and his theater.  Embracing the enabling limits of the quarter system, we will read only four of Shakespeare’s plays – Measure for Measure, Macbeth, The Winter’s Tale, and King Lear – but we will read them well, devoting significant time to each play.  Our discussion of phenomenology will extend from the big three of phenomenology’s heyday – Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty – to the emergent field of historical phenomenology as articulated by early modern critics like Bruce Smith and Julia Reinhard Lupton.  In our conversations about phenomenology’s attempt to grasp or account for lived experience, we will touch on the phenomenologically-inflected thought of Arendt and Levinas, as well as contemporary attempts to rethink the phenomenological project in relation to body, emotion, and mind.  We will discuss topics ranging from the senses and theatrical experience to affective engagement and affordance theory, from cognitive ecologies and extended mind to ethical experience and the demands of community.

2014-2015 Theme →