Jan Huizinga and Roger Caillois have already taught us to realize how important games and play have been for pre-modern civilization. Recent research has begun to acknowledge the fundamental importance of these aspects in cultural, religious, philosophical, and literary terms. This volume expands on the traditional approach still very much focused on the materiality of game (toys, cards, dice, falcons, dolls, etc.) and acknowledges that game constituted also a form of coming to terms with human existence in an unstable and volatile world determined by universal randomness and fortune. Whether considering blessings or horse fighting, falconry or card games, playing with dice or dolls, we can gain a much deeper understanding of medieval and early modern society when we consider how people pursued pleasure and how they structured their leisure time. The contributions examine a wide gamut of approaches to pleasure, considering health issues, eroticism, tournaments, playing music, reading and listening, drinking alcohol, gambling and throwing dice. This large issue was also relevant, of course, in non-Christian societies, and constitutes a critical concern both for the past and the present because we are all homines ludentes.
Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona, Tucson, USA.