Gambling has been a practice central to many cultures throughout
history. In Dice, Cards, Wheels, Thomas M. Kavanagh
scrutinizes the changing face of the gambler in France over a
period of eight centuries, using gambling and its representations
in literature as a lens through which to observe French culture.
Kavanagh argues that the way people gamble tells us something
otherwise unrecognized about the values, conflicts, and cultures
that define a period or class. To gamble is to enter a world traced
out by the rules and protocols of the game the gambler plays. That
world may be an alternative to the established order, but the shape
and structure of the game reveal indirectly hidden tensions, fears,
Drawing on literature from the Middle Ages to the present, Kavanagh
reconstructs the figure of the gambler and his evolving personae.
He examines, among other examples, Bodel's dicing in a
twelfth-century tavern for the conversion of the Muslim world;
Pascal's post-Reformation redefinition of salvation as the
gambler's prize; the aristocratic libertine's celebration of the
bluff; and Balzac's, Barbey d'Aurevilly's, and Bourget's
nineteenth-century revisions of the gambler.
Dice, Cards, Wheels embraces the tremendous breadth of
French history and emerges as a broad-ranging study of the
different forms of gambling, from the dice games of the Middle Ages
to the digital slot machines of the twenty-first century, and what
those games tell us about French culture and history.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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