Nature and Significance of Play as a Cultural Phenomenon

The article discusses play and tries to define it. After reading the article I decided to look at the formal definition of the word play and was astonished. Dictionary.com lists ninety-four, yes ninety-four definitions. Huizinga splits the article into two categories, play that is childlike and play that forms from ritual. The author speaks of the longevity of play, and the fact that it is older than even culture. Furthermore, the reasoning behind play is deeply analyzed, pushing it farther than psychological and physiological meaning. He flirts with a fine line, stating you can deny a number of things including God, justice, and seriousness but not play. Moving on, Huizinga is fascinated with idea of seriousness versus play. How they interact, how they help mold or deconstruct the other, and how each is categorized? Childlike play often comes to mind when speaking of play.He refers to play as imagination or feeling otherworldly. It is not a always a welcome spot for realistic ideas in play. This thought has been embedded into children’s mind for quite some time now and it is still evident in today’s culture.

In society, as we grow older and mature appropriately, we not only change our lifestyle but humans also adapt their “play.”Playing often becomes more of a mentally intensive game, such as rituals.Rituals are definitely entangled in culture as well, but once again the author speaks about the importance and existence of play.

Huizinga’s article could be found offensive to religious people, or other types of supporters.He downgrades a variety of religions and compares them to game playing.In my opinion, if you analyze a subject enough you can typically relate one subject to another. I think this article compares the two items at hand incorrectly.

One thought on “Nature and Significance of Play as a Cultural Phenomenon

  1. Johan Huizinga is known as one of the earliest play theorists, and this article is a chapter from his book Homo Ludens, which is thought to be an essential volume for studying any type of game or play activity. Huizinga was even influential on the Situationists who we’ll study later in our class.

    Your summary lists a bunch of ideas put forth in the chapter, and I really like how you went to an alternate source to gain more knowledge on the subject!

    You note that Huizinga talks about ritual as a type of play, and that this could be the ‘offensive’ part of the article – and yes, other students did take offense at this. I myself thought that people might not like the dismissal of other cultures as “savage” – the anthropological treatment in the writing may have been modern in 1938 but nowadays could be construed as offensive.

    The readings I propose in class are thought of as very important and groundbreaking towards the topics at hand, so when you critique, you need firm ground to stand on. Yes, I agree that it’s a tougher read than you might be used to, and being a translation from the 1938 Dutch original version doesn’t help. Pretzels sound yummy….

    Here is another critique I found (taking your dictionary.com a step further and googling this author) on the web – it might help you understand better: http://deserthat.wordpress.com/2007/11/27/book-review-huizingas-homo-ludens-man-the-player-%E2%80%93-a-study-of-the-play-element-in-culture/

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