Author Biography

Melanie Holm is an associate professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on Skepticism, the novel, satire, and digital pedagogy.


In 2017, I developed “Entering the Lady’s Dressing Room,” an Interactive Fiction game based on Jonathan Swift’s satiric poem “The Lady’s Dressing Room” (1734) to help my students become better readers of Restoration satire, and poetry generally. I did this for two reasons: to test whether the digital mediation of game-playing could help my undergraduate students more fruitfully engage with the poem, and 2) to theorize the similarities between poetic interpretation, the multiple narrative-making experience of game-playing. This article takes seriously the idea that poetry is play. It describes the circumstances that led to the development of the game and why Swift’s poem seemed an appropriate site for such experimentation. Crucial to game construction is a commitment to theories feminist game design that complement the poem’s own indictment of sexist determinism. With meditations on the affinity between poems and games, an examination of preceding experiments of literary translation into the ludic digital, details on game construction and local objectives, this article reflects on how digital mediation suggests a self-conscious mode of reading as a phenomenon of fictional world building. I don’t mean to suggest that this approach is necessarily appropriate for every poem or that every poem can be translated into the digital sphere in this way; rather, I want to share how the case of Entering the Lady’s Dressing Room suggests that the experience of translating a poem into Interactive Fiction can contribute to the formation of careful, detail-oriented reading practices in undergraduate readers. And poetry, if nothing else, is about the details.


Interactive Fiction, Digital Pedagogy, Jonathan Swift, Feminist Pedagogy, Restoration Satire, Poetry pedagogy, restoration poetry, feminist game design