Good ways to improve literature knowledge?

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gettysburg11
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Good ways to improve literature knowledge?

Post by gettysburg11 » Sat Mar 01, 2014 3:11 pm

Hi everyone, I don't know if you remember me from a few months back (if you don't that's perfectly OK, haha), but our team has been doing extremely well this year so far. As we are starting to get into some of the higher rounds of our local competitions, however, I want to see what I can do to improve on one of our relative weaknesses, literature. We have one girl who's very good with it and I can chip in some as well, however I'd like to be able to expand my knowledge and if I can that of the rest of the team as well, not only for the remainder of this year, but for next year as well after she graduates.

One idea I had, and I don't know if this is a good or terrible one so please tell me, was to go on Sparknotes and read through the summary pages for some famous works so I at least have an idea of the general plot and important characters. If there are any other or better ways to do this that you all have found through your experiences, I'd really appreciate hearing them. Or if my focus is completely wrong, I'd like to know that too. :lol:

Thanks in advance for any assistance you may be able to give me! :grin:
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Re: Good ways to improve literature knowledge?

Post by zachary_yan » Sat Mar 01, 2014 3:33 pm

If you haven't seen the other threads about this you can use the search function to find them otherwise:

1 Check out literature pages here: http://ai.stanford.edu/~csewell/culture/ and NAQT frequency lists (it's worth knowing all it it!)
2 read packets/ summaries from sparknotes, cliffnotes and what have you.
3 last but not least http://www.qbwiki.com/wiki/Read_a_book
4 repeat

Literature is arguably the "easiest" subject to fraud and get good at so yeah just stick with it for a while.
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Re: Good ways to improve literature knowledge?

Post by The Polebarn Hotel » Sun Mar 02, 2014 4:54 pm

Sparknotes is an incredible tool for important works (novels/plays, mostly, although I think there's a Sparknotes of Keats' Odes or something like that). I've used it for a lot of books and I can usually power them afterwards. Not only do they include all of the things that are usually included as stock clues, they also give you a perspective on the plot, which gives you an advantage over a player who only knows the stock clues.

I personally find Sparknotes more useful than reading books for quiz bowl purposes. If you want to gain "real knowledge," that's fine. In my own experience, Sparknotes has provided me with most - if not all - of what I needed to know about a book for quiz bowl purposes, and it's a lot more efficient.
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Re: Good ways to improve literature knowledge?

Post by RexSueciae » Sun Mar 02, 2014 5:09 pm

I've used Shmoop.com a few times for picking up literature knowledge, although I think it's a bit limited in scope (certainly not in depth, though--its summaries are very nice). You can find most public-domain literature online at Project Gutenberg, just in case you want to actually read books, and a lot of literature that isn't in the public domain can be found in .pdf form or hosted from sketchy Russian websites and other places where the copyright lengths are shorter than in the United States.

You could also just listen to the audiobook, or watch the film adaptations of famous works. The entirety of my Jane Austen knowledge comes from a bunch of movies my seventh grade English teacher showed the class instead of assigning us actual schoolwork. :grin:
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Re: Good ways to improve literature knowledge?

Post by Guile Island » Sun Mar 02, 2014 5:12 pm

Short Stories and poems are not particularly long, so you can learn a ton in a shorter time than reading novels. I personally picked up an American short story anthology about a year ago that has gotten me a ton of points since then.
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Re: Good ways to improve literature knowledge?

Post by samus149 » Sun Mar 02, 2014 7:02 pm

At the end of last year, our team wanted to get better at covering our biggest weakness (literature), so I made a spreadsheet of 50 or so authors and their novels/short stories to read, along with other nerd statistics (color coding, how important 1-5, if there was a movie adaptation for yours truly). All of us combined ended up reading about 4 or 5 books over the entire summer, but just writing that list has incidentally gotten me a lot of lit buzzes.
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Re: Good ways to improve literature knowledge?

Post by AKKOLADE » Sun Mar 02, 2014 7:32 pm

To get depth: read books or analysis of them (or poems, plays, blah)

To get breadth: read about them

Literature is a category about reading. Get better at it by reading.
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Re: Good ways to improve literature knowledge?

Post by gettysburg11 » Sun Mar 02, 2014 8:12 pm

Right, thanks to everyone who replied. I really do wish I had time to read more of these works in their entirety, but since I just don't I think I will try Sparknote reading and maybe making some notes up for myself if I need them for the time being. The short story approach seems like a good idea too, hopefully I can look into that also. Thanks again! :smile:
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Re: Good ways to improve literature knowledge?

Post by The Polebarn Hotel » Sun Mar 02, 2014 9:45 pm

Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Reading short stories is really helpful. It helps me to be able to find poems being orated - it helps me remember it better than just reading it, and it also decreases the amount of confusion between two similar poems.

For example, reading Ariel by Sylvia Plath will let you power almost any question on her. And if you don't want to do that, just read the more important poems (Tulips, Daddy, Lady Lazarus, Munich Mannequins, etc.).
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Re: Good ways to improve literature knowledge?

Post by NLiu » Wed Apr 30, 2014 11:40 am

As previously mentioned, plays and short stories are fast reads and still comprise relative knowledge. I'd only add to the above list what some have potentially implied already: that, if you do choose to read a novel (which can take some time), look up the author in question in quizbowldb or quinterest or something like that and allocate which work by the author to read for the deepest knowledge and earliest buzzes. For example, (and this is a horrible example, since Lolita is hugely significant in and of itself) if you want to get tossups on Nabokov, realizing that a book like Pnin or Pale Fire comes up consistently earlier in questions than references to more major works, (here, Lolita), should direct you to read such earlier-appearing novels if you are pressed for time, as most of us are.
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Re: Good ways to improve literature knowledge?

Post by Ithaca Cricket Ump » Mon May 05, 2014 9:46 am

Expanding on what Casey said, I've found that there's a straightforward three-pronged method for becoming a great literature player:

1. If it's a short story or a non-epic poem, just read it. (Short novels such as "Candide" also qualify here.) The time investment isn't much, and the payoff as far as quizbowl points go is quite good.

2. If there's a longer quizbowl work (novel, play, epic poem) that sounds interesting to you, read it in its entirety. This will pay off in both points *and* the intellectual enjoyment, satisfaction and edification in having read the work. Being your team's lit person is, in a way, one of the coolest things you can be in a quizbowl sense, because of the joy of finding and reading new authors and works. Some of my favorite authors of all time (Mahfouz, Pynchon, Faulkner, Saramago, McCarthy and Murakami spring directly to mind) became my favorite authors because I originally learned about them to get better at quizbowl, found that I really liked them, and delved deeper into their oeuvres. It's not always JUST about the points. ;) Specializing in literature can have side benefits that can last for the rest of your life, way after you're done playing quizbowl.

3. If there's a longer quizbowl work that comes up in quizbowl a lot (NAQT's Lit Frequency list is a big help in this regard), but that you're thinking the experience of wading all the way through it sounds about as fun as having Pat Robertson come into your bedroom every night, lie down under your bed, and discuss church finances with you while you're trying to sleep, then -that's- where the Sparknotes (or Shmoop, or Masterplots) are lifesavers. In the case of those works, hold your nose, read the summaries, and gain familiarity with the plot and characters without unduly torturing yourself.

With the modern standards of pyramidal high school quizbowl at the nationals level, I don't think it's too inaccurate to say that you usually need to have read the work to first-line a literary work question, but you can *second-line* almost anything by following the Sparknotesing regimen that Casey recommends. At regional level, it's quite possible to be a dominant literature player by learning the summaries by heart and nothing else, if you don't mind depriving yourself of the ancillary intellectual pleasure of actually reading the works.

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Re: Good ways to improve literature knowledge?

Post by Ithaca Cricket Ump » Mon May 05, 2014 9:52 am

Oh yeah, another "trick" to learn literature quickly that I forgot...again, you won't first-line much by using this method, but you'll second-line most things. If you're -really- lazy but just motivated enough to put -some- effort in, watch the movie based on the book (if it exists) to get a decent grasp on the characters and plot, which although usually truncated is also not usually -radically- different from the book itself. In a couple of cases, the movie is actually as good (All Quiet on the Western Front) or even better (Doctor Zhivago) than the book, and even if it isn't you can get the general idea of what's going on in two hours, at least well enough to make you a threat on sub-nationals level questions at the very least. Of course, reading the actual work or the summaries would be the preferable method, but if you find yourself really pressed for time, this is a decent third alternative that I haven't heard of a lot of people using, but could come in handy.

--Scott

Edit: this might be just me, but I've always preferred to see Shakespeare plays performed, rather than read the works. I have -seen- every Shakespeare play in the First Folio, but probably only read the twenty most prominent. This complete BBC Shakespeare set on Amazon might be the best $150 you ever spend in regards to future point payoffs for quizbowl, although you a need a multi-region DVD player to play it due to the fact that it was released in the UK:

http://www.amazon.com/The-BBC-TV-Shakes ... collection
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Re: Good ways to improve literature knowledge?

Post by vinteuil » Mon May 05, 2014 10:17 am

Ithaca Cricket Ump wrote:Oh yeah, another "trick" to learn literature quickly that I forgot...again, you won't first-line much by using this method, but you'll second-line most things. If you're -really- lazy but just motivated enough to put -some- effort in, watch the movie based on the book (if it exists) to get a decent grasp on the characters and plot, which although usually truncated is also not usually -radically- different from the book itself. In a couple of cases, the movie is actually as good (All Quiet on the Western Front) or even better (Doctor Zhivago) than the book, and even if it isn't you can get the general idea of what's going on in two hours, at least well enough to make you a threat on sub-nationals level questions at the very least. Of course, reading the actual work or the summaries would be the preferable method, but if you find yourself really pressed for time, this is a decent third alternative that I haven't heard of a lot of people using, but could come in handy.

--Scott

Edit: this might be just me, but I've always preferred to see Shakespeare plays performed, rather than read the works. I have -seen- every Shakespeare play in the First Folio, but probably only read the twenty most prominent. This complete BBC Shakespeare set on Amazon might be the best $150 you ever spend in regards to future point payoffs for quizbowl, although you a need a multi-region DVD player to play it due to the fact that it was released in the UK:

http://www.amazon.com/The-BBC-TV-Shakes ... collection
I actually have always had the problem of not picking up and retaining character names at all well during movies; not sure if other people experience this. Obviously that renders watching adaptations a bit less useful for these purposes.
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Re: Good ways to improve literature knowledge?

Post by pajaro bobo » Mon May 05, 2014 7:08 pm

I can confirm that the Cyrano de Bergerac movie will get you first lines on TUs about the play 99% of the time. There's also the added bonus of it being a really great movie.

Not many faithful film adaptations exist, but those that do can be super helpful.
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Re: Good ways to improve literature knowledge?

Post by Nabonidus » Fri May 09, 2014 7:36 pm

vinteuil wrote:I actually have always had the problem of not picking up and retaining character names at all well during movies; not sure if other people experience this. Obviously that renders watching adaptations a bit less useful for these purposes.
I certainly experience that. I wonder if this occurs because the brain is aware that movie stars exist and/or if movie stars came into existence in order to fill this gap.
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Re: Good ways to improve literature knowledge?

Post by Mike Bentley » Sun May 11, 2014 1:41 am

canonomics wrote:
vinteuil wrote:I actually have always had the problem of not picking up and retaining character names at all well during movies; not sure if other people experience this. Obviously that renders watching adaptations a bit less useful for these purposes.
I certainly experience that. I wonder if this occurs because the brain is aware that movie stars exist and/or if movie stars came into existence in order to fill this gap.
It's probably due to the fact that there isn't anywhere near the narration in a movie that you get in a book. You're not seeing repeated mentions of the characters' names in describing their actions or attributing who said what.
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