Artboard 1 apply Artboard 1 copy 2 Mount_Logo_Primary_RGB Mount_Logo_Primary_RGB give Artboard 1 copy 3 info link Mount_Logo_Primary_RGB Artboard 1 Artboard 2 Artboard 1 visit

Ducharme Lecture to Examine “How to Think About the World (With Video Games)”

Rebecca McDermott
Graduate Assistant, College of Liberal Arts

When we think of cultural artifacts, we often concentrate on the art, literature, tools and weapons of past civilizations. We study these things to gain a better understanding of history and the people who lived during the time of their creation. In a classroom setting, cultural artifacts can be used to reveal information about social problems, political thought or the treatment of specific groups of people.

eric-hayot-in-text.jpgAs we study cultural artifacts to gain an understanding of the past, we might also ask, “What kinds of artifacts will be used to study culture and society in the 21st century?”  Instead of poetry and pottery, future students may focus on television, film, and an even newer medium, computer software.  On Wednesday, September 22 at 4 p.m., Mount St. Mary’s will welcome guest speaker Eric Hayot, Ph.D., for the Fall Ducharme Lecture. A professor of comparative literature and Asian studies at Penn State University, Hayot will help the Mount community learn “How to Think About the World (With Video Games).”

Hayot regularly offers a popular undergraduate course called Introduction to Video Game Culture, and the experience has inspired him to write his next book about the topic.  The course examines video games with the goal of helping students acquire “some basic tools and approaches for thinking humanistically about culture.”  Hayot challenges his students to view the games in the same way that we study novels or art.  “If you want to understand the 17th, 18th, or 19th century, it makes a lot of sense to look at things like literature,” Hayot explained.  “Part of my feeling is, if you want to understand the 20th century and beyond, you have to push past literature into other forms of culture, including not just video games but also mediums like television and film.”  He designed his course to motivate students to discern how the games they play reveal important aspects of the society they live in.   For example, Hayot notes that “many video games are about the growth of a person from a relatively powerless figure to a very powerful one in the game-world.”  He asks his students to consider why that is so.    

Hayot emphasized the importance of English departments designing courses that examine such media in the curriculum.  He stated, “As English professors, it is part of our job to use culture to help students understand how the world works, and why humans have culture in the first place.”  It is impossible for Hayot to think about contemporary culture without considering video games, along with other emerging technologies and practices.

The director of Penn State’s Center for Humanities and Information, Hayot is well positioned to study culture in its many manifestations. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Georgetown University.  At Penn State he has taught courses ranging from first-year seminars on the process of literary reading to graduate courses on globalization and diaspora.  His scholarly expertise extends to poetics, literary and cultural theory, and post-colonial literature.  He has published numerous books on topics such as Chinese culture, modernity and modernism, literary worlds and academic style.  His most recent book, Humanist Reason (2021), strongly defends the humanities and provides practical advice about how students and faculty members can explain its value to others.  He tells students, for example, “You don’t just want to get ready to do a job; you want to get ready for the world!”  

During the Ducharme Lecture, the Mount community will investigate video games in the same profound way Hayot’s students do.  He reflected, “I am not particularly concerned if [students] remember certain dates or events, but rather, if something from the course causes them to think more deeply about life and humanity.” 

Held twice a year, the Ducharme Lectures are an ongoing series that fosters the integration of learning between different fields in the Mount’s core curriculum. The lectures are named in honor of Professor Emeritus Robert Ducharme, Ph.D., who advanced the Mount’s mission for 39 years as an English professor and department chair. The Ducharme Lectures are endowed with a generous gift by Raphael Della Ratta, C’92, who was an English and philosophy major at the Mount.

The lecture will include a livestream option.  The university is monitoring COVID-19 conditions and will make changes as needed to make sure Dr. Hayot and audience members remain safe. 

Rebecca McDermott
Graduate Assistant, College of Liberal Arts