Gambling, Game, and Psyche

By Bettina L. Knapp

Subjects: Psychology-cross-cultural, Literary History, Literature, Nineteenth-century Studies, Twentieth- And Twenty-first-century Studies
Series: SUNY series in Psychoanalysis and Culture
Paperback : 9780791443842, 308 pages, December 1999
Hardcover : 9780791443835, 308 pages, December 1999

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Table of contents


1. Pascal: A Geometer's Wager with God

2. Balzac: The Wild Ass's Skin—The Gambler's Quest for Power

3. Poe: "William Wilson"—Gambler? Wastrel? Reprobate?

4. Dostoevsky's Flayed Gambler

5. Serao's Naples: Smorfia Mania and the Devouring Father

6. Sholom Aleichem:"The Lottery Ticket"—A Human Gamble

7. Hesse's The Glass Bead Game: Computerized Culture

8. Kawabata's The Master of Go: Game as Ritual of Exile

9. Zhang Xinxin's Orchid Madness






The fate of the hero-gambler, as described by Dostoevsky, Balzac, Poe, and others, is the focus of this unprecedented exploration of gambling and the human psyche.


Bettina Knapp adds a new spin on the study of gambling as she explores both sides of the coin—the rush and thrill of risk taking versus the depression and defeat of losing. In a unique Jungian approach, Knapp probes the universal and eternal mysteries that lady luck herself offers to humanity's never-ending quest to defy destiny.

While games of chance and of skill have held universal appeal throughout the ages, here Knapp adds a new dimension by exploring the psyches and the cultures of their players. In each of the book's nine chapters, she examines a different type of gambling as evidenced in Western and Eastern tradition through the literary works of Aleichem, Balzac, Dostoevsky, Hesse, Kawabata, Pascal, Poe, Serao, and Zhang. This scrutiny shows both the diversity and universality of each culture as she takes the literary works out of their individual contexts and relates them to humankind in general. Through an examination of seven different cultures—American, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Russian—she shows the effects of gambling on individuals and groups of players as well as its impact on the family and society.

Bettina L. Knapp is Professor at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, in the departments of Romance Languages, Comparative Literature, and Women's Studies. The author of many books including A Jungian Approach to Literature, and two SUNY Press books, Women in Myth and Women, Myth, and the Feminine Principle, she is also a Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters, an honor presented by the French government.


"It's clear throughout the book that Knapp has not only an enthusiasm for the discussion at hand, but also awareness that not everyone who is interested in literary representations of gambling will be well-versed in theory. Throughout Gambling, Game, and Psyche, readers are presented with clear-cut and illustrative examinations of the texts. Theory-phobes will be pleased to learn that the more academic sides of the arguments are also clearly explained. " — CasinoOnline. co. uk

"Knapp takes the reader on an adventure through time and across cultures. One penetrates the psychologically and symbolically complex world of the gambler in a variety of forms. It's an absorbing, challenging book to read. As usual, Knapp masterfully weaves together the study of literature, linguistics, culture, mysticism, and Jungian psychoanalysis, taking her reader on an exciting exploration of literary masterpieces of the East and West. I am very impressed by the intellectual and cultural range of this book. The subject of gambling, treated through texts by authors from different cultures and different periods, makes for a most unusual book. I also like the completeness of this study: the biographical portraits, the descriptions of the authors' intellectual and cultural milieus. The writing is clear and elegant. " —Susan Dunn, Williams College