Machphrasis: Video games as metaphor in contemporary literary culture

Butterworth-Parr, Francis (2024) Machphrasis: Video games as metaphor in contemporary literary culture. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 2023Butterworth-ParrPhD.pdf] PDF
Download (2MB)


This thesis explores how writing since 1984 has deployed the video game as a prose metaphor. In order to do so, the thesis establishes a poetic framework capable of drawing from video game metaphors their critical, aesthetic, historical, and affective relevance to the fictions in which they appear. This poetics is called ‘Machphrasis’, a term borrowed from writer and cultural theorist Kawika Guillermo (2016), and its deployment as poetic lens across six texts: William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984), Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash (1992), Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1985 in Japanese, 1991 in English), Michael W. Clune’s Gamelife: A Memoir (2015), Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One (2011), and Marie Lu’s Warcross (2017), is the thesis’ primary contribution to knowledge. This thesis redresses current scholarship’s uneven balance between investigating the literary in the video game by instead theorising how video games and gaming can offer literary writing a suite of literary effects that have gone without full-blooded analysis to date. Ultimately, this thesis argues that machphrastic analysis disinters a vital new sens of the video game within the novel form, one that grows in quality and quantity from its conception in cyberpunk fiction to writing now. I have constructed the thesis in three interrelated parts. Chapters 1 and 2 focus on constructing an expositional and modal machphrastic writing style from the three early cyberpunk texts previously mentioned above. Chapter 3 brings the thesis to writing now, where Clune’s Gamelife highlights how machphrastic analysis can complicate prescriptive narratives concerning video gaming’s addictiveness. Chapters 4 and 5 turn to Cline’s Ready Player One and Lu’s Warcross to explore how machphrasis currently serves ideological positions related to gamers. Alongside machphrasis as a systematic poetics, where appropriate, the thesis also explores new concepts in order to condense theoretical positions and textual evidence into a critical vocabulary that describes video gaming phenomena. Namely, these are shamanism, critical immersion (introduced in chapter 3), and the logic of alternateness (introduced in chapter 4). Holistically, the thesis can be read as a literary contribution to ongoing discursive efforts to create theoretical language that meaningfully describes and interrogates the video game’s especial place in late 20th and early 21st century culture, what I call the act of theorising the ludic century.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Sangster, Professor Matthew, Barr, Dr. Matthew and Kim, Dr. Yunhyong
Date of Award: 2024
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2024-84325
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 16 May 2024 14:18
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 14:18
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.84325

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year