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Paidia: The Concept of Play in Ancient Greece

Room 133, Barker Center
12 Quincy St., Cambridge
Mon., Apr. 16, 2018, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Paidia: The Concept of Play in Ancient Greece

Greek paidia is different from the English “play.” While English speakers tend to think of play as an activity that is engaged in for pleasure—as if by partaking in certain activities called “play,” for example, rolling dice or jumping rope, a player might trigger some sort of pleasure reward—paidia was conceived to be a feeling of pleasure that spills over into the physical manifestations of that pleasurable feeling. “Joy” and “delight” cause people to “dance” (a common denotation of paizō), “sing” (also a common denotation of paizō), and engage in other forms of play like balancing a stick, throwing a ball, and rolling dice. It is not that singing, dancing, and playing are results of “joy” and “delight,” but rather that they just are forms of “joy” and “delight.”

This slight distinction in meaning between the English “play” and Greek paidia has far-reaching consequences if we consider, for example, that Plato, in late works like the Sophist, Statesman, and Laws, turns to “play” as a category embracing all painting, sculpture, theater, music, and dance, or if we consider that Aristotle repeatedly feels a need to respond to these discussions, for example, in Nicomachean Ethics 10 and Politics 8. Paidia for these authors is not some colloquial term for mimesis—as is too often supposed—but a different concept altogether. As such, it offers a new set of theoretical challenges: if paidia is to be conceived as some pleasure mode, and art is to be conceived as a form of paidia, how can the wide variety of art objects, media and games be understood as emanating from that singular form of pleasure?

Gazette Classification: Humanities
Organization/Sponsor: Ludics Seminar, sponsored by the Mahindra Humanities Center
Speaker(s): Stephen Kidd, Brown University
Contact Info: Vassiliki Rapti, vasiliki_rapti@emerson.edu
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Date: 
Monday, April 16, 2018 - 18:30