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Roger Caillois


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A French scholar whose study Man, Play and Games (1969) includes a fourfold classification of play/games: Agon/competition; Alea/chance; mimicry/pretence; and Ilinx/*vertigo. This has been adapted to numerous sport contexts and the relevance of the classification has been reaffirmed by the emphasis in some sports upon the thrill of the moment, and the experience of balancing challenge and control in physical activity. Caillois also emphasized the importance and attraction of the uncertain element in play and sports that was guaranteed to offer a source of excitement away from the routines of everyday life. He wrote of the human need to feel the body's stability and equilibrium temporarily destroyed, in order to escape the ‘tyranny of perception’. One anthropologist, Shirley Prendergast, has described the playing of stoolball, by women in an English village in East Sussex, as ‘the pursuit of vertigo’ (in Women's Studies International Quarterly, 1, 1978).

Subjects: Literature

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