The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2012 | Games, Performance, and Literary-Media convergence
Document Actions

Ludic Literature, Literary Games

Lead supervisor: Professor Steven Connor (Birkbeck)

Co-Supervisor: Professor Andrew Burn (Institute of Education)

This studentship is specifically focused on the convergence of computer games and traditions of literary, oral or dramatic narrative: how the expressive forms of language and drama migrate into, or metamorphose into, visual and auditory forms, and might be accommodated by ludic structures and game mechanics. While some genres of Japanese games have been seen as deeply rooted in traditions of Japanese folktale, there are few examples of Western games adapting literary or oral narratives, the exception being the recuperation of Nordic motifs via RPGs, Dungeons and Dragons and Tolkien (Carr et al, 2006). Similarly, there has been attention in game studies to aspects of dramatic form and practice:  Aristotelian (Laurel, 1991); Boalian (Frasca, 2001); educational (Carroll & Cameron, 2005) However, there is little which explores analogies or movement between specific dramatic or literary texts and game texts.

This project will be of interest to researchers in Cultural Studies, literary studies and media and game studies, as research increasingly pays attention to forms of media convergence (Jenkins, 2006). It will also be of interest to educational researchers in media and multimodal literacies, a field in which games as a cultural form has barely been addressed (Burn, 2009). It is also of significance for cultural institutions seeking to re-present archives, including literary manuscripts, for new forms of public engagement in the digital era. Finally it is significant for the creative industries, especially at a time when UK games developers are slipping in competitiveness in Europe.

While in one sense this topic can be seen within the tradition of adaptation studies, we are looking for more searching questions which could disrupt conventional chronologies of these cultural forms and conventional distinctions between them. Possible (but not exclusive) themes candidates might address are:

  • Ludic structures in, across and between dramatic, literary or oral narrative
  • Memory, recollection, repetition in games or game-like narratives
  • Performative readings of games or game-like narratives
  • Oral-formulaic structures as analogues for computer game mechanics
  • The poetics of game design, across linguistic, dramatic, visual and auditory modes
  • The profitable confusion of games, literature and drama in secondary school English


  • To analyse, explore and propose convergences between computer games and literary, oral or dramatic narratives
  • To develop new theories of textuality, performance, play and narrative in relation to these convergences
  • To develop new methodologies for the analysis of themes and narratives across media and across and between semiotic modes
  • To study player engagements with such convergences
  • To consider educational implications for arts and humanities subjects at secondary and/or HE levels
  • To disseminate findings to relevant research communities, cultural institutions, creative industries and education

Methodologies may include textual analysis, empirical study of regimes of game design or play, and even production of new hybrid forms, for candidates with appropriate design experience. PhD regulations at both Birkbeck and the IoE allow for part practice-based submission. A connection with an educational site will be required, to explore cultural and educational implications of the work with young people. Methodologies here may include ethnographic study of game-play, including observation, interview and visual ethnography. The supervisors can provide expertise in these methodologies between them; the exact nature of the approach will depend on negotiation with the student about the topic, research question and programme.

The successful applicant will be supervised within the London Consortium, which provides a full programme of doctoral training. Relevant doctoral courses and events are also offered by the IoE and the London Screen Studies Group.


Master's in a relevant field (eg English, Media/Screen/Game Studies, Cultural Studies), preferably with Distinction

Key references

Burn, A. (2009) Making New Media: creative production and digital literacies. New York: Peter Lang.

Carr, D, Buckingham, D, Burn, A, Schott, G (2006) Computer Games: text, narrative, play, Cambridge: Polity

Carroll, J and Cameron, D (2005) ‘Machinima: digital performance and emergent Authorship’, Proceedings of DiGRA 2005 Conference: Changing Views – Worlds in Play

Frasca, G. (2001) Videogames of the Oppressed. MA thesis, Georgia Institute of Technology.

Jenkins, H (2006) Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, New York:  NYU Press

Laurel, B. (1991) Computers as Theatre Menlo Park, Ca: Addison Wesley.

Further details about the project may be obtained from:

Lead Supervisor: Professor Steven Connor,,

Co-Supervisor: Professor Andrew Burn,,

Further information about PhDs at the London Consortium is available from:

Application forms and details about how to apply are available from:

tel: 020 7836 7558

Admission Tutor: Professor Steven Connor

With their application, candidates are required to include:

A sample piece of writing (e.g. an article, an MA dissertation)

This studentship is now closed.