Eleni Violaris, St John's

Degree: PhD
Course: CC
Supervisor: Prof Steve Connor
Dissertation Title:

The Level Game: Architectures of Play in American Literature and Theory, 1968-2018


Biographical Information

I graduated from the University of Cambridge with a double starred first in 2017, and completed my Masters degree at the University of Cambridge with distinction in 2018.

Research Interests

My PhD thesis investigates the relationship between games and levels in postmodern and contemporary American fiction. I explore how levels of narrative diegesis correspond with levels of architecture and levels in digital games. Drawing upon the history of playgrounds, theories of gamification and recent research on networks, I illustrate how a quality of playfulness is evoked by such structures. I argue that a sense of progression coexists with a sense of circularity in the navigation of levels which are, like Escher's paradoxical stairs, locally distinct but globally equivalent.

My thesis covers writers including Jean Baudrillard, John Barth, David Foster Wallace, Mark Z. Danielewski, Jonathan Safran Foer, Dennis Cooper, Richard Powers, Dave Eggers and Don DeLillo. I have previously worked on James Joyce.

I am broadly interested in games, puzzles and paradoxes, including literary applications of Douglas Hofstadter's 'strange loop' as described in Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid.

I am also interested in intersections between literature, science and mathematics, particularly the application of chaos and complexity theories to literature. I wrote about chaos in a recently published article on Shakespeare's King Lear.

I am co-founder of the Cambridge Games and Play Research Network, which hosts talks and discussions relating to games studies across multiple time periods from Dante to the present. I was previously a convenor for the Twentieth Century and Contemporary Literature Graduate Research Seminar in 2020.

Areas of Supervision

I have experience supervising Practical Criticism and a comparative Italian and English literature course organised in collaboration with the Italian department. I am currently supervising dissertations on James Joyce, Nabokov and puzzles, and postmodernism and plot.

I am happy to supervise period papers on postmodern and contemporary literature, as well as undergraduate dissertations that overlap with my research interests.

Selected Publications

Violaris, Elena, ‘An Undoing of Pattern or a Pattern of Undoing? Sin, Folly and Chaos in Shakespeare’s King Lear’, Shakespeare (2021). https://doi.org/10.1080/17450918.2021.1878261

Violaris, Elena, ‘The Semiotics of Emoji: Infinite Jest and the Yellow Smiley Face’, Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, 61.2 (2019), 193–205. https://doi.org/10.1080/00111619.2019.1703634