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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Presentation Details

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Critical Gaming, Virtual Worlds, and Future Humanities

Neil Fraistat.

My immediate point of departure is a claim made by Jerome McGann and Johanna Drucker that ‘humanities scholarship without gameplay, even when the scholarship explicitly devotes itself to self-reflection, inevitably fails to engage with essential features of the works it means to study, including the workings of the mind engaged with such works.’

I am particularly interested in how immersive digital environments, virtual worlds, with their gamelike performative and critically reflective possibilities, might themselves be created and understood as textual editions. To that end, I will show and discuss ongoing experiments in immersive textual editions and critical gaming spaces currently being conducted in the Villa Diodati MOO of Romantic Circles, a peer-reviewed and peer-built Website focused on the literature and culture of the British Romantic Period, of which I am a General Editor. My focus will be on two projects: (1) FrankenMOO, a MOO-based, virtual world that spatially renders and interprets the text of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and (2) MOOzymandias, a model immersive textual edition of Percy Shelley's famous sonnet, ‘Ozymandias’ that translates the four nested narrative frames of the sonnet into a fourfold MOO space, interlaced by a labyrinth of winding tunnels, and replete with related virtual objects, images, sounds, and videos through which players must travel to ‘read’ and experience the poem.

My multimedia demonstration and meditation on critical gaming and immersive textual spaces will thus pursue such questions as what it might mean to edit such virtual worlds, what are the ‘forms of editions’ they make possible--and what new forms might be possible? And through demonstrating a number of practical examples of graphical MOO spaces, I hope to raise far-reaching and important theoretical questions about editing, textuality, and the future of Humanities scholarship.


Neil Fraistat  (United States)
Professor of English
English Department
Univeristy of Maryland

Professor of English at the University of Maryland and a founder and General Editor of the Romantic Circles Website. Recent publications include Volume I of The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley and the Norton Critical Edition of Shelley’s Poetry and Prose (both co-edited with Donald H. Reiman), and Reimagining Textuality: Textual Studies in the Late Age of Print, co-edited with Elizabeth B. Loizeaux. I’ve received the Society for Textual Scholarship’s Fredson Bowers Memorial Prize, the Keats Shelley Association Prize, and the Keats-Shelley Association’s Distinguished Scholar Award.

  • Technology
  • Humanities
  • Virtual Worlds
  • Textual Edition
  • Electronic Editing
  • Computer Games
  • MOOs

(30 min Conference Paper, English/French)