This paper surveys the evolution of the play concept in modern literary theories. The concept of play thus has no single definition and cannot be reduced to some accountable features. It should be seen as a subtle mechanism that lies in the operation of culture and in the construction and deconstruction the categories of epistemology by which the human mental spaces are established and undermined. The concept of play has shifted from its concentration on the performance of play subject in romanticism’s discourse to its emphasis on the deconstruction of the subject in postmodernism’s discourse, seeing subjects as merging within language which is already a play system. The ideas of the playful nature of literature has also been re-evaluated. In modern paradigm, the playful nature of art involves with its autonomy, its aestheticism, its foregrounding of art forms. However, in postmodern paradigm, this aspect of art cannot be separated with the politics of culture and cannot be outside of the struggle for cultural power. These awareness of the nature of literary play not only influences the literary critism but also affects the creative writings.
Keywords: literary theory, theories of play, the playful nature of literature, modernism, postmodernism.
Trần Ngọc Hiếu (Trường Đại học Sư phạm Hà Nội)
Source: Tạp chí Khoa học Đại học Văn Hiến, số 11 – tháng 5/2016, trang 34-43.