The Playground of the Mind: Teaching Literature at University

  • Deborah PikeEmail author
Part of the International Perspectives on Early Childhood Education and Development book series (CHILD, volume 18)


This chapter begins with the claim that conventional serious, strictly syllabus- and goal-oriented teaching does not inspire students with confidence in their own capacity to engage critically and creatively with and contribute to interpretations of literature. It poses the solution of employing a playful pedagogy, via games and props. The chapter initially explores the theoretical background of the concepts of play and playful pedagogy, drawing on early learning and, where available, adult learning contexts, as well as literary and philosophical perspectives on creativity and play. It then argues that by appreciating the playful aspects of both reading and writing, literary study becomes more pleasurable. Johan Huizinga’s notion of poeisis, which ‘proceeds within the play-ground of the mind, in a world of its own which the mind creates for it’ (Huizinga, Homo Ludens: a study of the play-element in culture. Beacon Press, Boston, 1955, p. 119) is central to the argument, as is Donald Winnicott’s notion of the ‘transitional object’ (Winnicott, Int J Psychoanal 34:89–97, 1953). Extrapolating from these theories and from the author’s own teaching experience, the chapter offers a suite of playful activities to enhance playfulness in literary studies in the adult learning context. The possibility of this kind of enhancement can inspire educators to return to this ‘playground of the mind’ to reanimate student engagement with texts, stimulate imaginative thinking and nuanced analyses, as well to provoke a deeper experience of literature.


Literary Study Aesthetic Experience Literary Text Student Feedback Creative Writing 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of Notre Dame AustraliaSydneyAustralia

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