Ludic Cultures, 1100-1700

Series introduction

A sixteenth-century painting of a group of well-dressed men and women, seated around a table, playing cards and gambling with gold coins.

"The Card Players," after Lucas van Leyden, c. 1550/1599, Washington, DC, National Gallery of Art, Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1961.9.27. Public domain.

Ludic Cultures treats medieval and early modern play in all its innumerable eccentricities. Building on the work of Johan Huizinga, as well as that of Roger Caillois and Bernard Suits, these monographs and essay collections conceive of play as a phenomenon that extends well beyond leisure activities and child's play, finding expression in virtually every facet of cultural production. The series promotes the documentation of complex cultural practices that have thus far eluded traditional disciplinary models. These interdisciplinary works make visible varieties of thought and action that until recently seemed impossible to trace, while contributing to growing interest in what Huizinga once rightly called “the play element of culture.”

Keywords: Ludic, cultural history, social history, history of games and play, board games studies, cultural production, medieval and early modern games.

Geographical Scope: Western Europe and the Americas

Chronological Scope: 1100-1700

The series welcomes the submission of both monographs and essay collections that view cultures in Europe and the Americas between 1100 and 1700 through the lens of play.

See forthcoming titles in this series.


Proposals or completed manuscripts to be considered for publication by Medieval Institute Publications should be sent to Tyler Cloherty or Emily Winkler, the acquisitions editors for the series, or the series editor, Michael A. Conrad, University of Zurich, Switzerland.


Cover of Playthings in Early Modernity: Party Games, Word Games, Mind Games: an early modern image of a woman and two men playing a card game.

Playthings in Early Modernity: Party Games, Word Games, Mind Games

By Allison Levy

An innovative volume of fifteen interdisciplinary essays at the nexus of material culture, performance studies, and game theory, Playthings in Early Modernity emphasizes the rules of the game(s) as well as the breaking of those rules. Thus, the titular "plaything" is understood as both an object and a person, and play, in the early modern world, is treated not merely as a pastime, a leisurely pursuit, but as a pivotal part of daily life, a strategic psychosocial endeavor.

LC Monograph 1, ISBN 978-1-58044-260-2 (clothbound), 978-1-58044-261-9 (PDF) © 2017

Buy Playthings in Early Modernity at ISD


Forthcoming in this series

Gaming the Medieval English Text: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the Cotton Nero A.x Manuscript

By Julie Nelson Couch and Kimberly K. Bell

This book innovatively combines traditional manuscript study with contemporary cultural game theory to show how the enigmatic fourteenth-century Middle English romance, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, launches a multidimensional game with the reader in its unique manuscript context, Cotton Nero A.x. The authors argue that the poem positions the reader as a player who constructs meaning through the poem’s multivalent games within games: the exchange-of-winnings game nested within the exchange-of-blows game, nested within the Christmas games of Arthur’s court.