The Early Modern Ludic: Gaming and Literary Culture in China


Luce/ACLS Early Career Fellowships in China Studies – Long-Term


East Asian Languages and Cultures

Named Award

Long-term - NYU Shanghai Visiting Residency named award


This book explores the mutually constitutive relationship between the ludic and the literary in China from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. By examining a series of game-inspired literary and theatrical works, it shows how early modern authors, playwrights, publishers, and readers leveraged the critical potential of games to inform and model the ways in which they read, learned, and thought. Literature and theater provided the early modern public with a training ground through gaming, wherein they cultivated new epistemological perspectives for navigating the real world. This project uncovers an important yet understudied aspect of early modern Chinese literary culture, one marked by its media hybridity and interactivity. It also concretizes the notion of “the ludic” within its cultural and historical variation, spotlighting a pre-digital age before games became a global industry or a burgeoning field of academic inquiry.