Faculty Member’s Book Wins Prestigious Popular Culture Award
Slantwise Moves: Games, Literature and Social Invention in Nineteenth-Century America, a book by English and creative writing faculty member Douglas Guerra (right), won the Popular Culture Association’s Ray and Pat Browne Award for Best Reference/Primary Source Work.
The book takes a popular board game of the era, such as Milton Bradley’s first breakout hit, The Checkered Game of Life, and correlates it with a significant book, such as Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, which is best known for “Song of Myself.”
Bradley and Whitman, for example, use similar techniques of centering the playing piece or character as an avatar for something else. “Whitman is doing something like what Milton Bradley’s Checkered Game of Life is doing,” Guerra said. “But Bradley’s game might give us a better idea of how to read Whitman, by imagining what people were doing with media like books in interpersonal settings—how people used leisure artifacts to create social feelings.
“Books and games are not that distant,” Guerra added. “They were produced in the same print shops and used by the same people, and studying them can tell you about regular behaviors in a society. A game tells you not just what people thought, but what they must have been doing.”
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