Jo­han Kal­man­leh­to: Beyond the Figure. The Notion of Mimetic Subject Formation in Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe’s Philosophy and its Relevance to Digital Gameplay

FM Johan Kalmanlehdon taidekasvatuksen väitöskirjan ”Beyond the Figure. The Notion of Mimetic Subject Formation in Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe’s Philosophy and its Relevance to Digital Gameplay” tarkastustilaisuus.

Vastaväittäjänä professori Olli Tapio Leino (City University of Hong Kong) ja kustoksena professori Pauline von Bonsdorff (Jyväskylän yliopisto).

Väitöstilaisuuden kieli on suomi.

Väitöskirja on luettavissa sähköisesti.

Väitöskirjan abstrakti

This dissertation investigates the notion of mimetic formation of the subject in Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe’s philosophical writing in relation to digital gameplay. The aim of the research is to provide an interpretation of Lacoue-Labarthe’s thought, which is relevant to the notion of the subject of gamic action. The research materials consist of a selection of Lacoue-Labarthe’s early texts and theories of digital games. Investigation of this material is conducted as a theoretical research through close reading and philosophical writing, which aims to demonstrate the implications of Lacoue-Labarthe’s philosophy in relation to contemporary digital culture. The work is divided into three main parts: 1) the basis of Lacoue-Labarthe’s thought, 2) the notion of the subject of gamic agency in digital gameplay and 3) Lacoue-Labarthean aspects of gamic mimesis. The first part explores Lacoue-Labarthe’s philosophical background and main theses, and the second constructs a theoretically justified conception of digital gameplay. The final part introduces digital gameplay into readings of Lacoue-Labarthe. Lacoue-Labarthe characterizes the subject through a loss of its proper essence. When presenting its identity, the subject becomes doubled into the agent and the product of self-presentation. This is an incessant process of formation and deformation through voluntary and involuntary imitation of models, which Lacoue-Labarthe inspects as mimesis. On a fundamental level, mimesis functions unconsciously, and takes place before the emergence of a sense of self and conscious thought and imagery. In this study, games are considered as structures of goals and obstacles; digital games are examined as concealed algorithmic rule systems that are written in programming languages and executed by the computer’s hardware. Digital gameplay is an interaction with such systems. It occurs as an agency within the gameworld, through which the player experiments with possibilities of gamic action. Discussing this conception of gameplay through Lacoue-Labarthe’s writing produces four aspects of gamic mimesis: the struggle for mastery, the paradox of gameplay, gameplay as rhythm, and gameplay as the sublime. These openings to a Lacoue-Labarthean interpretation of gameplay suggest that subject formation in gameplay occurs beyond the figure, on an imperceptible stage of gamic action, in which the subject is produced through the algorithmic system.


Johan Kalmanlehto


Musiikin, taiteen ja kulttuurin tutkimuksen laitos