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Call for Papers

October 31, 2018

Ohio, United States

Subject Fields:
Cultural History / Studies, Popular Culture Studies, Women’s & Gender History / Studies, Humanities, Digital Humanities

Call for Chapters: “Being Dragonborn: Critical Essays on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” (edited collection)

In advance of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’s tenth anniversary in 2021, this collection of essays seeks to investigate how the game hails its player as “dragonborn,” a calling that merges political, social, and religious narratives in the game toward the player’s assumption of the dragonborn identity position: savior of Skyrim. Our collection aims to identify and explore these hailed positions within the cultural ecology of the game, which is always connected to the player’s out-of-game realities. Situated on the threshold of intricately detailed “cultural” cities and the expansive “natural” wilderness, the dragonborn negotiates the complex political workings of life under the civil war between the rebel Stormcloaks and the Imperial Legion.

Being Dragonborn will be the first collection of critical inquiries into the Elder Scrolls franchise. Skyrim depicts the complexities of the video game medium as seen in the player’s precarious position between the in-game fantasy world and out-of-game subjectivities, realities, and positions. The game’s narrative, gameplay, iconography, music, and in-game mechanics and items are invested in a romanticized invention of medieval life and architecture, colonialist and militaristic structures of play amid civil war, and particular constructions of gender, class, race, and language. How these critical issues coalesce in the game, and through the experience of playing the game, make Skyrim a fertile space to consider what this winner of over 200 Game of the Year awards teaches its loyal players, modders, and enthusiasts.

The collection would be geared toward the interest of game studies scholars, game designers, Skyrim players, and instructors who may already incorporate Skyrim into the classroom—many of us wearing several of these proverbial hats simultaneously. The collection’s title—Being Dragonborn—speaks to the primacy of player ontology and identity within the game by means of the game’s colonial narratives, medieval resonances, in-game labor and economic conditions, aesthetically sublime environment, and its consumptive and productive practices. In an attempt to go beyond fraught dichotomies and territorial disputes within Game Studies that restrict discourse on the video game medium, the editors seek diverse and interdisciplinary approaches, readings, and methodologies.

The editors are looking for fresh, interpretive analyses of Skyrim that call attention to issues of culture, politics, theory, practices, game design, and the gaming industry. The collection welcomes contributions from emerging and established scholars on topics including the following:

Visual aesthetics of Skyrim – the sublime and the immanent 

Post-colonial approaches to the social and militaristic game narrative and play 

Neomedievalist approaches to Skyrim—tradition, lore, nostalgia, architecture 

Critical race theory—the ex-nomination of whiteness in Skyrim; racial hierarchies; 
confronting the racialized other in the game 

Religious studies approaches to Skyrim narratives, mysticism, or mythologies 

Politics and simulation of (civil) war in the game 

Music studies—in game songs, music, and covers that operate harmonically and/or 
contrapuntally with other in-game elements 

Marxist approaches to in-game labor, leisure, property ownership, 
production/consumption practices, and idyllic domestic spaces 

Linguistic and cultural studies of Dovahzul, the dragon language embedded in Skyrim 
shouts, word walls, names, and conversation. 

Modding Skyrim—analysis of modding community, modding interfaces, IP and 
economic concerns related to modders/industry
Gender, sex, and sexuality in Skyrim—queer readings of Skyrim
Psychoanalytic approaches to player experience, ludic forms, and game narrative 

Studies of spatiotemporality in the game and its historico-cultural affordances 

Skyrim VR—technical and/or metaphysical considerations of Skyrim in light of Skyrim’s 
recent VR release. 

Feminist and eco-feminist approaches to Skyrim ecologies 

Teaching with Skyrim—affordances and dangers of gaming pedagogies 

Philosophical and theoretical arguments emerging out of gameplay or fan experience 

Studies that account for the material engagements of the game’s design, marketing, 

400-word abstracts are due by October 31, 2018. Please send abstracts in .doc(x) format and queries to Mike Piero ( and Marc A. Ouellette ( with the subject heading “Being Dragonborn.” This collection is under contract with McFarland & Company for their Studies in Gaming series, edited by Matthew Wilhelm Kapell. If your abstract is accepted, full essays between 5,000-7,500 words will be due by May 31, 2019. 
When submitting an abstract, please provide: 

Name, rank/position and affiliation, email address 

Proposed chapter title 

400-word abstract 

Up to 5 keywords for the essay 

Do you plan to include figures or images in the essay?

Contact Info:
Mike Piero, Associate Professor of English, Cuyahoga Community College, and Ph.D. Candidate, English, Old Dominion University,

Marc A. Ouellette, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of English, Old Dominion University and Learning 
Games Initiative Research Fellow, 

Contact Email: