Overrepresentation of World Lit Topics

Old college threads.
User avatar
Mr. Kwalter
Tidus
Posts: 617
Joined: Tue Nov 18, 2003 1:48 am
Location: Houston, TX

Overrepresentation of World Lit Topics

Post by Mr. Kwalter »

Recently a fellow player mentioned to me that he thought it was unjust that the relatively few topics present in the acceptable world lit canon be represented so much more prevalently than some very important authors and works in the British and American canons. For instance, Salman Rushdie and JM Coetzee are favorite topics of world lit writers, which leads to a glut of tossups on them and their works. The Tale of Gengi is probably more commonly found in low to mid level tournaments than, say, any (or perhaps all) of the works of John Milton (note: this is pure conjecture; if someone would like to prove that wrong be my guest). Now, I personally have a great fondness for world literature and value its place in the canon, but when an author like Salman Rushdie, admittedly a modern literary titan, so outdoes authors like Milton or say Steinbeck in the canon, perhaps it is time to rethink our approach. Thoughts?
User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6368
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Post by grapesmoker »

I'm glad we're having this discussion. Some general thoughts on the lit distribution:

1) I don't know that the number of times Rushdie comes up vs. the number of times Milton comes up tells you much about the relative distribution of English language vs. other literature. The distribution is whatever is specified in the packet requirements; it's just that the English language canon is larger (for us) than the world lit canon. So if Rushdie comes up more often than Milton, that just means that he gets picked more often because there are fewer accessible writers to ask about in the world lit canon. Your other example, the Tale of Genji, is about the only accessible piece of medieval Japanese literature (the other one possibly being the Tale of the Heike), so when people are casting about for something to write, it comes readily to mind.

2) I personally wish that more questions would focus on modern literary titans (of whom Steinbeck is one; the Steinbeck-Milton comparison seems odd to me). I'll admit right off the bat that this is in large part a personal preference resulting from my reading tastes. Nevertheless, I would like to see modern literature come up more often and Cavalier poets/Restoration dramas/19th century American regionalist literature come up less. I think those topics are overrepresented in literature.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance
User avatar
Mr. Kwalter
Tidus
Posts: 617
Joined: Tue Nov 18, 2003 1:48 am
Location: Houston, TX

Post by Mr. Kwalter »

For what it's worth, Rushdie and Coetzee both write in English, as does much (but certainly not all) of the rest of the "world" literature canon. Also, perhaps "modern," already a problematic term, should be replaced with "contemporary" in my post, as Steinbeck is clearly part of the pedagogical canon, while Rushdie is still somewhat of an outsider in the eyes of traditionalists.
User avatar
solonqb
Tidus
Posts: 634
Joined: Mon Jun 16, 2003 11:00 am
Location: Pasadena, CA
Contact:

Post by solonqb »

grapesmoker wrote: Your other example, the Tale of Genji, is about the only accessible piece of medieval Japanese literature (the other one possibly being the Tale of the Heike)
Isn't Sei Shonagon's Pillow Book considered canonically accessible as well?
Noah Rahman
Welcome to Simbabwe, where the property is already owned and the houses built and you compete to burn and dispossess them. Compete with Robert Mugabe, Canaan Banana, Cecil Rhodes and Sir Godfrey Huggins to earn a place on the all-time EU travel ban list!
yoda4554
Rikku
Posts: 254
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2005 8:17 pm

Post by yoda4554 »

I think this comes done to a debate over what literature questions, in general, should test. The greater emphasis on world lit. comes, I think, from the belief that even if Anglo-American literature represents (let's say) 90% percent of what players read, that shouldn't matter because literature from other traditions is, globally, more important than that ratio suggests, more in line with the standard 25%-40% distribution. This position implies that questions should test not what is likely to have been read, but what's important to the world at large.

The greater emphasis on Jerry's dreaded Restoration/Cavalier/etc. lit. comes, I think, from the viewpoint that questions on Anglo-American lit. should represent the historical literary canon. In academia, those traditions tend to get far more attention than among contemporary readers; most English majors have to take classes on these types of topics at some point, for instance. Look at the GRE in English lit. If you think there's a lot of old stuff no one reads anymore in some quiz bowl tournaments, you haven't seen anything. This position implies that questions should test what an academic studying literature would learn.

I don't think trying to write questions solely along the lines of what we think people are likely to have read is really a good idea; that kind of logic leads towards something like CBI literature questions. If the game is supposed to be "academic" in some sense, we should be writing questions on the academic canon and on what works are generally considered to have the most literary significance within it, like in any discipline. If we think science questions should be written such that people need to have taken some science courses to get them, we should write litereature questions such that you need to have studied the literary tradition to get them. Thus, there should be an emphasis on globally and historically important works even if not as many people have read them.

On the other hand, to make questions on important but less widely-read works accessible, people tend to write questions (particularly bonuses) such that no one will actually have had to have read any of the works to get points; they almost seem to presume that no one will have read the works in question. Part a) of a bonus on, say, Coetzee, is "here are some titles; who wrote this?" and the next two parts are regularly on 2 of the 3 or 4 most famous books, and the questions tend to be phrased such that you can eliminate choices based solely on the titles. I don't think anyone likes this, because all you have to do to prep for this type of question is have combed old packets or Wikipedia looking for a few titles by the writer, and you're done.

In other words, people should certainly get more points for having done their historical and cross-cultural homework, but not at the expense of stumping the rest of everyone or giving people free points for having a good memory for a few famous titles. So, compromise the positions.
User avatar
Mr. Kwalter
Tidus
Posts: 617
Joined: Tue Nov 18, 2003 1:48 am
Location: Houston, TX

Post by Mr. Kwalter »

If you want to talk about academia, the fact is that in most undergraduate English programs around the nation you are more likely to escape without reading rushdie or coetzee than you are without reading milton or steinbeck (note: I speak only of assigned readings, not books read during leisure time). This is not to say that there aren't plenty of classes offered around the country on more contemporary world literature nor is it to say that most responsible literature students attempt to expose themselves to a variety of literary traditions, but if we're going by what most people read in a college classroom, then we should greatly decrease the proportion of the qb canon. If we go by the "globally important" maxim, then we come dangerously close to CBI's "diversity" policies. Are we going to start making sure the national epics of all the former russian republic become tossup subjects? My concern isn't that Rushdie and Coetzee come up; it's that they come up very disproportionately to authors that are equally historically salient.
User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6368
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Post by grapesmoker »

ekwartler wrote:My concern isn't that Rushdie and Coetzee come up; it's that they come up very disproportionately to authors that are equally historically salient.
I think there's a good reason for that, though. It's because they are chosen from a smaller canon so they are more likely to get asked more often.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance
User avatar
Mr. Kwalter
Tidus
Posts: 617
Joined: Tue Nov 18, 2003 1:48 am
Location: Houston, TX

Post by Mr. Kwalter »

grapesmoker wrote:I think there's a good reason for that, though. It's because they are chosen from a smaller canon so they are more likely to get asked more often.
It is obvious that the world literature canon is smaller. My question concerned the fairness of equating (in the packet distribution) said smaller canon with the relatively large, even huge british, european and american canons. Perhaps the disparity between their sizes should be accounted for by decreasing the amount of world literature required in a packet (or packet set).
User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6368
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Post by grapesmoker »

I don't like the idea of decreasing the world lit distribution. World lit is already something like 1/1 anyway. How could you lower it further? While I don't think that diversity alone is a good argument for including something, diversity together with quality is. It's easy to think of the English canon as huge because it's huge for us, being English speakers and all, but I think an increase in the number of question alotted for English language lit would have the consequence of excluding some very worthwhile other literary canons, and that would be unfortunate in my view.

Anyway, I don't think we're equating the world lit distribution with the other large canons. We're giving it a space in the sun as it deserves, which already isn't very large. Why mess with something that seems to work quite well?
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance
User avatar
Mr. Kwalter
Tidus
Posts: 617
Joined: Tue Nov 18, 2003 1:48 am
Location: Houston, TX

Post by Mr. Kwalter »

grapesmoker wrote:World lit is already something like 1/1 anyway. How could you lower it further?
Two ways came to mind. 1) Simply combine it with euro lit, although one could argue the euro canon plus the world canon are together much larger than brit or american. 2) Make the distribution 1/1 american, 1/1 british, 1/1 european and 2/2 your choice. Don't demand world lit at all; rather, just let the market decide. It would be up to editors to ensure a fair and balanced world lit distribution.
grapesmoker wrote:It's easy to think of the English canon as huge because it's huge for us, being English speakers and all, but I think an increase in the number of question alotted for English language lit would have the consequence of excluding some very worthwhile other literary canons, and that would be unfortunate in my view.
Once again, much of the world lit distribution is English language literature. Also, quizbowl (in this country and Britain) is played in English by English speakers. That doesn't mean we should be isolationists, but it does mean that we tend to study (both by choice in college and by assignment in high school) English language literature. Also, we're not talking about excluding entire literary canons here. Often (especially in lower level tournaments) editors end up reaching for things to include as world lit because the canon is so small. There is plenty of room for all of the major areas of world literature (African, Australian, East Asian, South Asian, Latin American) without a defined distribution. This would just take the pressure off editors and decrease the number of half-assed world literature questions on ridiculous things inserted out of obligation.[/quote]
User avatar
Matt Weiner
Sin
Posts: 8421
Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2003 8:34 pm
Location: Richmond, VA

Post by Matt Weiner »

ekwartler wrote:If we go by the "globally important" maxim, then we come dangerously close to CBI's "diversity" policies.
No, asking about real knowledge of an important writer who happens to come from Asia is the right kind of diversity. The wrong kind, the way CBI does it, is to ask about "the first CATEGORY OF MINORITY to do ACHIEVEMENT."

There's an easy way to make sure world literature isn't just "countries colonized by England" literature: count anything written in the English language by a non-American as British literature in the distribution. That's what I do. Because the world lit answer space is somewhat restricted that way and because it's hard to ask a tournament's worth of world lit at lower difficulty levels, I prefer to limit it to 1 question per packet instead of 1/1.
Matt Weiner
Founder of hsquizbowl.org
User avatar
Mr. Kwalter
Tidus
Posts: 617
Joined: Tue Nov 18, 2003 1:48 am
Location: Houston, TX

Post by Mr. Kwalter »

Matt Weiner wrote:No, asking about real knowledge of an important writer who happens to come from Asia is the right kind of diversity. The wrong kind, the way CBI does it, is to ask about "the first CATEGORY OF MINORITY to do ACHIEVEMENT."

There's an easy way to make sure world literature isn't just "countries colonized by England" literature: count anything written in the English language by a non-American as British literature in the distribution. That's what I do. Because the world lit answer space is somewhat restricted that way and because it's hard to ask a tournament's worth of world lit at lower difficulty levels, I prefer to limit it to 1 question per packet instead of 1/1.
I agree completely with you on the subject of diversity, but I don't think that that was what was suggested. We should absolutely ask about Kawabata and Soyinka because they're top notch writers; if they happen to be from Asia or Africa so be it. I believe what was suggested was that they need to be included because they were from those places, which raises the question that is at the heart of this debate: why do we have a world lit distribution? Why don't we just divide the distribution into "English language literature" and "Other stuff?" Out of the typical 5/5 literature asked for in a packet, say 3/3 needs to be written in English, 1/1 needs to be written in some other language, and 1/1 can be either? Or split the final 1/1 between English and non. I mean, if you look at it now, the distribution is typically 1/1 american, 1/1 british, 1/1 american or british, 1/1 european, and 1/1 world. Changing it to English language vs. non would just give more flexibility to packet writers without putting any extra stress on the editors. I admit that this strategy puts more faith in the responsibility of packet writers, but at least at the Regionals level and up that shouldn't be an issue. Just a thought.
User avatar
Matt Weiner
Sin
Posts: 8421
Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2003 8:34 pm
Location: Richmond, VA

Post by Matt Weiner »

I think encouraging knowledge of non-Western culture is a good thing, it just has to be done the right way. So there should be some reasonable minimum requirement for non-American/European stuff.
Matt Weiner
Founder of hsquizbowl.org
miamiqb
Lulu
Posts: 69
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2005 10:38 pm
Location: Miami
Contact:

Post by miamiqb »

Matt Weiner wrote:I think encouraging knowledge of non-Western culture is a good thing, it just has to be done the right way. So there should be some reasonable minimum requirement for non-American/European stuff.
I am no expert :wink: but I do agree with matt here. I have noticed since I started writing questions that the world lit requirement is often tough for newer players to fill knowledgably. Thus, without a minimum requirement you would see people sighing in relief as they write a marlowe question instead of one about journey to the west.

That said, IMO the world lit requirement is important because it not only exposes players to new works they might go on to read but it also has the potential to add diversity to the game. It disappoints me that people accept that there is such a limited canon of non-Anglo Saxon writing. You Guys can change this!! You guys are the people who really determine the canon by setting examples through your well-written questions. I honestly feel that if the top question writers actively try to add new world lit topics to the canon people will catch up.

Honestly, any time people start adding items to the canon there will be initially low success rates on those new topics. When I began playing I had no idea who Sei Shonagon or Genji were; but now I can pretty much tell you verbatim about either topic. Over time players will pick up and the game will become a lot more enjoyable with a more diverse selection of topics to choose from.
I like to eat peanut butter
User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6368
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Post by grapesmoker »

Matt Weiner wrote:I think encouraging knowledge of non-Western culture is a good thing, it just has to be done the right way. So there should be some reasonable minimum requirement for non-American/European stuff.
Yeah, I pretty much agree here. My perception is that we don't really have a problem with world lit overrepresentation (although I would love to expand the world lit canon, albeit adiabatically).
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance
Nathan
Wakka
Posts: 119
Joined: Tue Mar 02, 2004 11:42 am

Post by Nathan »

I actually don't really have a problem with the current literary canon.

There's a reason why there aren't that many tossups on Milton...just like there aren't that many tossups on Shakespeare (considering their importance)....they're just too hard to write pyramidally...(especially Milton with his smaller corpus)...I'd love to write an ACF Nats tossup on Hamlet...it'd also be very difficult to keep it from going in the first line.

There are some weird coverage/lack of coverage areas in the qb canon--though I see these tendencies becoming less with time. Originally, when far too many questions were written out of Benet's or Incomplete Education...what was included in those volumes was the canon, what wasn't, wasn't.

as a sidenote: Steinbeck's importance is being a little over-emphasized by some posters here. He was hardly a literary titan (at times a damn bad writer). He was (and is) widely read...much of his ubiquity today has more to do with his easy accessibility for high schoolers (and I guess college kids) than his literary merit (of which he had some).
miamiqb
Lulu
Posts: 69
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2005 10:38 pm
Location: Miami
Contact:

Post by miamiqb »

Nathan wrote: There are some weird coverage/lack of coverage areas in the qb canon--though I see these tendencies becoming less with time. Originally, when far too many questions were written out of Benet's or Incomplete Education...what was included in those volumes was the canon, what wasn't, wasn't.

as a sidenote: Steinbeck's importance is being a little over-emphasized by some posters here. He was hardly a literary titan (at times a damn bad writer). He was (and is) widely read...much of his ubiquity today has more to do with his easy accessibility for high schoolers (and I guess college kids) than his literary merit (of which he had some).
Very true about the variability of the canon....and Steinbeck is often terrible...oh god, memories of Of Mice and Men flood my consciousness...
I like to eat peanut butter
User avatar
Mr. Kwalter
Tidus
Posts: 617
Joined: Tue Nov 18, 2003 1:48 am
Location: Houston, TX

Post by Mr. Kwalter »

Yeah, I thought it was clear that when I said "Milton," "Steinbeck," "Rushdie," and "Coetzee," I meant the authors themselves as well as their works. Personally I think that you could write a perfectly respectable milton tossup for ACF Fall that yes would be gotten by most experienced players early but could still remain pyramidal throughout for those that aren't on that level. If you go higher than ACF Fall, you have the option of writing on lycidas, areopagitica, etc. You could definitely write pyramidal tossups on the works of Milton that would not necessarily go in the first line.

Also, I have no problem with requiring one literature question per packet to be on world literature, but in my opinion it should also be limited to that one question. And to be clear, I'm not out to get world literature because it's "harder" than british, american and european literature. I just think that a 1/1 out of 5/5 distribution is inevitably uneven.
User avatar
Mr. Kwalter
Tidus
Posts: 617
Joined: Tue Nov 18, 2003 1:48 am
Location: Houston, TX

Post by Mr. Kwalter »

Nathan wrote:as a sidenote: Steinbeck's importance is being a little over-emphasized by some posters here. He was hardly a literary titan (at times a damn bad writer). He was (and is) widely read...much of his ubiquity today has more to do with his easy accessibility for high schoolers (and I guess college kids) than his literary merit (of which he had some).
This is not the place for discussion of Steinbeck's works, but it is as good a place as any to discuss the nature of "literary merit." We had a post in another thread about booker prize winning books being asked about because they won said prize that mentioned The God of Small Things. I have read that book and personally think it's one of the best novels written in "recent" times, but why is it canonical when the works of say, Ian McEwan are not? I think it was Nathan that wrote a McEwan bonus for a certain tournament this year, and there was a Saturday tossup in the Mordechai Richler trash tournament this summer, but on the whole he doesn't make the academic cut. It seems to me that there should be a better litmus test for academic credibility than "the test of time." Do we choose on a pedagogical basis? Only what could conceivably be taught in an average college classroom can be asked about in quizbowl? Or do we choose based on critical response, as in, has the author or the work made waves in the literary community? Once again, I don't want to seem like I'm villifying the current system. I just want to foment discussion.
yoda4554
Rikku
Posts: 254
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2005 8:17 pm

Post by yoda4554 »

The answer space for world lit is not small because there are few writers worthy of writing questions on outside of the US and Britain (and Europe). The answer space is small because few people have actually read works by people from non-Western cultures, so they tend to fall back on the standard Nobel laureates, people with famous movie adaptations, etc.

The solution to this, it would seem, would be for people to write questions about good writers from these traditions other than the two or three who are inevitably mentioned, or to make questions on those writers different from the standard questions listing their two or three most famous works. The key to this, of course, is that some people have to start actually reading more world literature to write good questions on them.

Someone with stats on this can dispute this point, but my impression is that the big guns of the English canon come up plenty (e.g., Milton certainly comes up more than Rushdie). Perhaps that doesn't happen exactly in proportion to their importance to the canon... but for that matter I've heard more questions in college on Cymbeline than King Lear, so exact proportionately clearly isn't the be-all and end-all.
Nathan
Wakka
Posts: 119
Joined: Tue Mar 02, 2004 11:42 am

Post by Nathan »

Does Roy really come up more often than McEwan? There was a spate of Amsterdam tossups awhile back. I haven't seen any Atonement tossups but they will come with time...I'd be willing to wager hard cash that Atonement will still be read a generation from now and God of Small Things may not.

yeah, the Booker Prize is an interesting question -- like the Nobel..some of the picks are clearly political (Fo and Jalinke v. Vernon God Little (a vicious anti-American polemic)) while others reflect real literary merit...and I think there's general consensus when this happens (Disgrace, God of Small Things)

as a sidenote to the Benet's/Incomplete Education influence on the early QB canon -- it wasn't just the answers, it was the significant clues that those books determined. to this day the giveaway clue for a Karl Barth tossup is "crisis theology"....of course in any other source one would find that Karl Barth was the preeminent neo-orthodox theologian of the 20th century and that it was his Commentary on Romans (specifically the 2nd edition) that sent shockwaves...not the Dogmatics (which no one read). the reason for this is that early Barth tossups were clearly written straight out of Incomplete Education. (ah the days before Google). I'm wagering that pernicious volume is also responsible for there being questions on Niebuhr and Tillich but not on the equally important (if not more so) Bultmann.
User avatar
recfreq
Wakka
Posts: 167
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2005 10:11 pm
Location: Japan.

Post by recfreq »

W/o having read every word of every post, I think I agree mostly with Eric, though I think the problem isn't so much with world lit distr (1/1 or so is fine), it's what the world lit distr actually represents.

E.g. Chinese works from the early twentieth century NEVER come up, although if you'd ask people in China who the greatest authors in Chinese history are, they'd usually tell you Lu Xun, Lao She, or Ba Jin. I've never heard Ricksaw Boy come up, though people have told me it's like the greatest book ever. I've also never heard Han Yeh come up. Similarly, how much great Indian lit really comes up? I can't name you anything in the late 1800s or 1900s. BTW let's not mistake lit written in English by Indian authors with Indian lit. I think the distr is skewed in very specific ways toward, say, Latin America and perhaps modern Japanese (at least the ones western folks have heard of). The problem to me with the world lit distr is the same with say the film distr. It's the STUFF WE WESTERNERS LIKE OR HAVE HEARD OF, not really the best stuff from the native land (e.g. Achebe, African Nobel winners, etc.).

On the other hand, I do agree with Eric that the need for diversity shouldn't automatically take away from questions on classical types of things that I see have come up less and less (Milton is a good example, but also something simple like Dickens and Thackeray)--it seems to me the British lit is 1st to go in these matters b/c it is European and written in English.

One last point: we tend very much to write biographies of authors when it comes to the world lit distr: Mahfouz, Walcott, Fuentes, etc. Yes, world lit works do come up sometimes, but the majority is biography. I find that we often load up on works of British and American lit and then write the bio on Latin American author, say. I don't know what we can do about this, b/c it's just like geography TUs being on islands, it just happens.
Ray Luo, UCLA.
User avatar
Matt Weiner
Sin
Posts: 8421
Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2003 8:34 pm
Location: Richmond, VA

Post by Matt Weiner »

The problem to me with the world lit distr is the same with say the film distr. It's the STUFF WE WESTERNERS LIKE OR HAVE HEARD OF, not really the best stuff from the native land (e.g. Achebe, African Nobel winners, etc.).
Writing on things that people can answer is not a "problem."
Matt Weiner
Founder of hsquizbowl.org
User avatar
Mr. Kwalter
Tidus
Posts: 617
Joined: Tue Nov 18, 2003 1:48 am
Location: Houston, TX

Post by Mr. Kwalter »

yoda4554 wrote:The answer space for world lit is not small because there are few writers worthy of writing questions on outside of the US and Britain (and Europe). The answer space is small because few people have actually read works by people from non-Western cultures, so they tend to fall back on the standard Nobel laureates, people with famous movie adaptations, etc.

The solution to this, it would seem, would be for people to write questions about good writers from these traditions other than the two or three who are inevitably mentioned, or to make questions on those writers different from the standard questions listing their two or three most famous works. The key to this, of course, is that some people have to start actually reading more world literature to write good questions on them.
Here's the thing. All of us that care about the game have stories about how we heard a tossup answer that prompted us to read a book or research a subject that sounded interesting. But in the end, quizbowl's primary function is to test knowledge, not include answers so people will then go out and read books for pleasure. I would say that an efficient quizbowl studier knows that reading entire books is simply impractical for qb purposes. Writing questions on things that nobody reads because nobody reads them is contrary to quizbowl logic.

As for what world lit is asked, there have been tossups on Ngugi's Petals of Blood, Tutuola's Palm Wine Drunkard, Kobo Abe's Woman in the Dunes (not to mention all of Murakami's work that gets asked) and plenty of non-nobel latin american authors like Cortazar and Llosa, few of which have been adapted "famously" into movies. Personally, I'd like to know what kinds of non-western literature you think people don't read and for that reason should be tossups.[/i]
User avatar
recfreq
Wakka
Posts: 167
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2005 10:11 pm
Location: Japan.

Post by recfreq »

Also, I think there's an overrepresentation of novels vs. plays. A very large percentage of the greatest works ever are plays (e.g. Shakespeare, Wilde), but we usually only afford it 1/1, that's absolutely ridiculous. The breakdown by genre is just ridiculous. So does my distr stink if I have only 1/1 on novels? Not really if I'm going by historical importance as opposed to importance of one genre against another. May be this should be saved for some future discussion, sorry.
Ray Luo, UCLA.
User avatar
Matt Weiner
Sin
Posts: 8421
Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2003 8:34 pm
Location: Richmond, VA

Post by Matt Weiner »

recfreq wrote:Also, I think there's an overrepresentation of novels vs. plays. A very large percentage of the greatest works ever are plays (e.g. Shakespeare, Wilde), but we usually only afford it 1/1, that's absolutely ridiculous. The breakdown by genre is just ridiculous. So does my distr stink if I have only 1/1 on novels? Not really if I'm going by historical importance as opposed to importance of one genre against another. May be this should be saved for some future discussion, sorry.
I think we should just bite the bullet and have hard and fast distributions for genre, yes. It's somewhat of a pain in the ass to balance the geographical and genre distributions but it's worth it to avoid 10 novels questions or 10 poems questions or whatever.
Matt Weiner
Founder of hsquizbowl.org
User avatar
recfreq
Wakka
Posts: 167
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2005 10:11 pm
Location: Japan.

Post by recfreq »

Matt Weiner wrote:Writing on things that people can answer is not a "problem."
Sorry, I don't mean to say problem. It's just my personally feeling that QB distributions should reflect what is historically, aesthetically, and theoretically most important. I know this is subjective, but I don't see any problem with attempting to stop asking about stuff that have dubious or over-blow literary merit. I think one good goal for QB would be to continuously modify its distr to allow the ideal distr to correspond to the actual distr, where the ideal distr deals with the criteria stated above, and the practical actual distr corresponds to what people currently know. But no, I don't have a problem with people asking about Coetzee if they sincerely believe he's a great author compared to some other author that could theoretically appear in QB questions. It IS a personal agenda in any case, but asking something just b/c it often appears in QB, not b/c it is great literature, seems to me to be a dubious moral stance.
Ray Luo, UCLA.
User avatar
Matt Weiner
Sin
Posts: 8421
Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2003 8:34 pm
Location: Richmond, VA

Post by Matt Weiner »

recfreq wrote: It's just my personally feeling that QB distributions should reflect what is historically, aesthetically, and theoretically most important. I know this is subjective, but I don't see any problem with attempting to stop asking about stuff that have dubious or over-blow literary merit. I think one good goal for QB would be to continuously modify its distr to allow the ideal distr to correspond to the actual distr, where the ideal distr deals with the criteria stated above, and the practical actual distr corresponds to what people currently know. But no, I don't have a problem with people asking about Coetzee if they sincerely believe he's a great author compared to some other author that could theoretically appear in QB questions. It IS a personal agenda in any case, but asking something just b/c it often appears in QB, not b/c it is great literature, seems to me to be a dubious moral stance.
It is possible to ask exclusively about topics that are in the intersection of "has high scholarly value" and "is answerable by people who will be playing this tournament." That's what ACF Fall and all other tournaments that really work to keep difficulty down while staying academic are all about. If you want to ask about some 17th century Laotian poetry and it's important, then by all means do so. But do it at the appropriate tournament, as the hard part of a bonus with two easier answers, not as a tossup answer or the sole theme of a bonus.
Matt Weiner
Founder of hsquizbowl.org
Rothlover
Yuna
Posts: 816
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2004 8:41 pm
Contact:

Post by Rothlover »

recfreq wrote:Also, I think there's an overrepresentation of novels vs. plays. A very large percentage of the greatest works ever are plays (e.g. Shakespeare, Wilde), but we usually only afford it 1/1, that's absolutely ridiculous. The breakdown by genre is just ridiculous. So does my distr stink if I have only 1/1 on novels? Not really if I'm going by historical importance as opposed to importance of one genre against another. May be this should be saved for some future discussion, sorry.
Whoa, "Shakespeare" and "Wilde" are plays now!? Anyway, I seem to recall those two doing noteworthy literary stuff besides "plays." Anyway, I personally do not feel that plays are underrepresented relative to other genres (Is quizbowl demanding more "Absurd Person Singular" tossups?) As far as language and importance go, pretty much everything that comes up now is of some importance (as far as I can tell, certainly someone who actually knows something can feel free to correct me) and I have come to the point where I don't whine about the fact that, say Abraham Cahan gets asked about instead of Anzia Yezierska (the apyramidal packet from TTGT11 notwithstanding.) If you think something is important, make it a descriptive hard part at a medium-level or higher packet sub event and maybe people will begin to pick up the torch.
Dan Passner Brandeis '06 JTS/Columbia '11-'12 Ben Gurion University of the Negev/Columbia '12?
Rothlover
Yuna
Posts: 816
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2004 8:41 pm
Contact:

Post by Rothlover »

recfreq wrote:
Matt Weiner wrote:Writing on things that people can answer is not a "problem."
But no, I don't have a problem with people asking about Coetzee if they sincerely believe he's a great author compared to some other author that could theoretically appear in QB questions. It IS a personal agenda in any case, but asking something just b/c it often appears in QB, not b/c it is great literature, seems to me to be a dubious moral stance.
I was just discussing this with someone, and a shift like that would be of the sort that would create a quizbowl harder than even the percieved difficulty of ACF nationals (I would also wager that it would skew the game more towards science people, but that is OT.) Thinking like that can lead one to write tossups on "The Negro Plot" instead of Vesey, Ottoman rulers not named Osman, Mehmet, Murad or Saladin and Oodgeroo Noonuccal instead of Patrick White. You cannot let personal agendas govern your writing, unless your agenda is to write stuff that, like, your target audience will actually convert.
Dan Passner Brandeis '06 JTS/Columbia '11-'12 Ben Gurion University of the Negev/Columbia '12?
User avatar
recfreq
Wakka
Posts: 167
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2005 10:11 pm
Location: Japan.

Post by recfreq »

Matt Weiner wrote:It is possible to ask exclusively about topics that are in the intersection of "has high scholarly value" and "is answerable by people who will be playing this tournament."
Sure, I think most of the stuff that I can think of are in this intersection, it's just that once in a while the latter category jumps off in say the regs level, mostly I think due to some people introducing the topic back in the day and people in QB just caught on, using the dubious stance of writing on what ever comes up, not what ever is great (but yes the latter sentiment is still subjective, but at least the spirit of the attempt is noble). On the other hand, I think if people always follow the "whatever is great" principle, you could show logically that the distr will converge (in the limiting case) to a "more ideal" distr. Hence, the need to follow the former rather than the latter principle. I also agree that "answerable" will be a criterion that never goes away, I just hope the original intent of "scholarly value" stays in our minds.

On the hand for say ACF fall, one should always write in the intersection. Note, however, people might have different ideas about where in the hierarchy a topic belongs. An author in my bonus part may deserve to be a tossup in your view, so in reality, the question really hasn't gone away. On the other hand, I think we do a pretty good job of policing ourselves, given all the variables involved; don't mean to sound like I'm critical if it came out that way. I think the big problems really don't come out until we get to very very hard questions on the nats level, when people's ideas about what's askable and not become magnified (e.g. fluctuation-dissipation, Hunsdiecker). Alright, feel free to go back to talking about Eric's post. Sorry.
Ray Luo, UCLA.
User avatar
Mr. Kwalter
Tidus
Posts: 617
Joined: Tue Nov 18, 2003 1:48 am
Location: Houston, TX

Post by Mr. Kwalter »

recfreq wrote:Sure, I think most of the stuff that I can think of are in this intersection, it's just that once in a while the latter category jumps off in say the regs level, mostly I think due to some people introducing the topic back in the day and people in QB just caught on, using the dubious stance of writing on what ever comes up, not what ever is great (but yes the latter sentiment is still subjective, but at least the spirit of the attempt is noble)
What? If you think regionals is too hard say that, not "writing about things that are canonical rather than following your extremely subjective sense of greatness is ignoble." Quizbowl is a game that involves many participants, not just one, so it is necessary to stay within the bounds of the canon rather than writing about that really great book you read but nobody else that plays quizbowl did.
User avatar
recfreq
Wakka
Posts: 167
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2005 10:11 pm
Location: Japan.

Post by recfreq »

ekwartler wrote:
recfreq wrote:Quizbowl is a game that involves many participants, not just one, so it is necessary to stay within the bounds of the canon rather than writing about that really great book you read but nobody else that plays quizbowl did.
I'm not sure if we're on the same page, but let me state it another way: my point is that people shouldn't look at past questions simply for what topics and clues come up, so that they could specifically write on that to propagate the material. I call this the reverse approach. Instead, imagine that you read about something in class, then you search the archives for how many questions about this topic was written about in QB. If questions WERE written in, say ACF fall, THEN you decide to write your own question, consulting the past questions to make sure stock clues don't come up until late in your own question. I call this the forward approach. In essence, I'm advocating the forward approach, and my argument has nothing to do with how many people you need to play QB. Of course there's a canon, of course one needs to respect the canon, but there're different ways to "acting with respect to quizbowl," and different ways to both study and write for QB.
Ray Luo, UCLA.
User avatar
recfreq
Wakka
Posts: 167
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2005 10:11 pm
Location: Japan.

Post by recfreq »

Rothlover wrote:I was just discussing this with someone, and a shift like that would be of the sort that would create a quizbowl harder than even the percieved difficulty of ACF nationals (I would also wager that it would skew the game more towards science people, but that is OT.) Thinking like that can lead one to write tossups on "The Negro Plot" instead of Vesey, Ottoman rulers not named Osman, Mehmet, Murad or Saladin and Oodgeroo Noonuccal instead of Patrick White. You cannot let personal agendas govern your writing, unless your agenda is to write stuff that, like, your target audience will actually convert.
Dude, I'm not talking about canon expansion. That belongs to a different thread. I'm talking about the rules of QB. E.g. there're different ways to enforce the novel vs. plays distr. You could say give me 1/1 plays 1/1 poetry 3/3 fiction. But then you could also say give me at least 1/1 novel, at least 1/1 plays, at least 1/1 poetry. I think I'd prefer the 2nd rule, b/c I'd go by historical and literary merit in my selection, and would prefer a bit more leeway in terms of genre, which is a dubious distinction.

There're other topics like this, where I think you could rely a bit less on the rules of QB and instead a bit more on the ideal QB canon. I realize this so called ideal canon will differ among people, and I'm not advocating my own ideal canon. I'm saying that if people go by literary merit when evaluting where in the QB canon hierarchy something is, then the ideal QB canon represented by _everyone playing_ QB will more likely converge to the canon that best reflects literary merit (b/c we're all individually trying to strive for it, in addition to enforcing it via QB rules). This doesn't mean you should write on something only you alone like. But this DOES means you shouldn't write on something ONLY because it comes up in QB. You should write on something that has literary merit, and because it has literary merit, has come up in QB.
Ray Luo, UCLA.
User avatar
recfreq
Wakka
Posts: 167
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2005 10:11 pm
Location: Japan.

Post by recfreq »

The point is to act according to a universal standard of all people instead of a just a QB standard comprised of all people involved in QB, b/c presumably, one way of looking at QB is that it strives to reflect some form of universal standard. On no occasion should you rely on only your personal standard. On the other hand, you could and should weigh opinions of those with more knowledge in certain areas more in those certain areas. If QB is indeed trying to ask about things of universal appeal, then it must respect the universal standard.
Ray Luo, UCLA.
User avatar
Mr. Kwalter
Tidus
Posts: 617
Joined: Tue Nov 18, 2003 1:48 am
Location: Houston, TX

Post by Mr. Kwalter »

No, I don't think that is one way to look at it. Yes, ACF Fall and its ilk try to reflect the knowledge base of the average college freshman-sophomore, but above that concern is the need to stay within the quizbowl canon. Quizbowl is inescapably set off from the rest of the universe and is governed by its own laws, one of which is thou shalt not disobey the canon outside of third bonus parts because of some objectivist approach to qb idealism.
User avatar
recfreq
Wakka
Posts: 167
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2005 10:11 pm
Location: Japan.

Post by recfreq »

ekwartler wrote:No, I don't think that is one way to look at it. Yes, ACF Fall and its ilk try to reflect the knowledge base of the average college freshman-sophomore, but above that concern is the need to stay within the quizbowl canon. Quizbowl is inescapably set off from the rest of the universe and is governed by its own laws, one of which is thou shalt not disobey the canon outside of third bonus parts because of some objectivist approach to qb idealism.
Actually, you're the one adhering to objectivist principles if you think that QB is a clique-based system with no need to subscribe to the general affairs of the world. QB is only its own system as far as rules go, but when it comes to topics and ideas, QB cannot survive w/o its substrate, which includes both knowledge and people. And the canon of which you speak, that's a canon for all people, not just your own little clique.
Ray Luo, UCLA.
User avatar
Matt Weiner
Sin
Posts: 8421
Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2003 8:34 pm
Location: Richmond, VA

Post by Matt Weiner »

There is a difference between asking what's been asked before and asking what people know. Putting forth the effort to think of questions on the latter that are not in the former is a practice which is and ought to be highly encouraged.
Matt Weiner
Founder of hsquizbowl.org
User avatar
Mr. Kwalter
Tidus
Posts: 617
Joined: Tue Nov 18, 2003 1:48 am
Location: Houston, TX

Post by Mr. Kwalter »

To be clear, I have no desire to see the canon deviate farther from what the "rest of the universe" considers the canon, but at the same time there are differences and they can't be dealt with except through accepted channels. If you think say Lu Xun should be in the canon, make that known by introducing him at a nationals level tournament in a bonus. You can choose your own tossup topics based on what you think belongs in the canon, but you can't just randomly insert some book because you think it's worthy then say "Hey guys, if we all do it then it'll just even out for the better in the end." Of course proactive canon expansion should be encouraged, but it needs to be gradual.
User avatar
recfreq
Wakka
Posts: 167
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2005 10:11 pm
Location: Japan.

Post by recfreq »

BTW one act against the spirit of QB if not the letter of its law would be to write questions based only on previous questions written on the topic, and with no effort to check facts in the real world. This is one of those things that can happen if you subscribe to the theory that QB is self-sufficient and is only for members of a select few of people who are called "quizbowl players," and has no foundation in the real world and the community of other people who write about other things.
Ray Luo, UCLA.
User avatar
Matt Weiner
Sin
Posts: 8421
Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2003 8:34 pm
Location: Richmond, VA

Post by Matt Weiner »

recfreq wrote:BTW one act against the spirit of QB if not the letter of its law would be to write questions based only on previous questions written on the topic, and with no effort to check facts in the real world. This is one of those things that can happen if you subscribe to the theory that QB is self-sufficient and is only for members of a select few of people who are called "quizbowl players," and has no foundation in the real world and the community of other people who write about other things.
No one is saying anything remotely like that.
Matt Weiner
Founder of hsquizbowl.org
User avatar
recfreq
Wakka
Posts: 167
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2005 10:11 pm
Location: Japan.

Post by recfreq »

ekwartler wrote:To be clear, I have no desire to see the canon deviate farther from what the "rest of the universe" considers the canon, but at the same time there are differences and they can't be dealt with except through accepted channels. If you think say Lu Xun should be in the canon, make that known by introducing him at a nationals level tournament in a bonus. You can choose your own tossup topics based on what you think belongs in the canon, but you can't just randomly insert some book because you think it's worthy then say "Hey guys, if we all do it then it'll just even out for the better in the end." Of course proactive canon expansion should be encouraged, but it needs to be gradual.
Agreed. At no point did I insist on introducing something recognizable only to a select group of people. I think though that if we are to set rules on "at least such and such a number of such and such should come up," then we'd better becareful that it reflects the situation in the world (in this case, mostly academia). I also agree that the QB community should be a prime determinant of what is acceptable, but I subscribe that if everyone in the QB community believes in evaluating authors and works based on literary merit and not on whether it comes up, then that which comes up will be exactly that which has literary merit. On the other hand, we're not at that stage, so your plan is the next most expedient plan to follow. I do think, however, that people should keep the ultimate goal in mind.
Ray Luo, UCLA.
JamesDinanProxy

Post by JamesDinanProxy »

to misquote the film billy madison "Mr. Luo, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this forum is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

I LOVE TRASH.

Take my survey!
User avatar
recfreq
Wakka
Posts: 167
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2005 10:11 pm
Location: Japan.

Post by recfreq »

Matt Weiner wrote:
recfreq wrote:BTW one act against the spirit of QB if not the letter of its law would be to write questions based only on previous questions written on the topic, and with no effort to check facts in the real world. This is one of those things that can happen if you subscribe to the theory that QB is self-sufficient and is only for members of a select few of people who are called "quizbowl players," and has no foundation in the real world and the community of other people who write about other things.
No one is saying anything remotely like that.
It was just an extreme point against the view that QB is a self-sufficient system with its own rules, b/c it would imply that only the opinions of those in the QB community is important as it regards to question writing. Whether it actually occurs in the QB community, I don't know, b/c I don't know anyone who does it.

BTW I apologize for this rather abstract discussion. I'm thinking that in the long term, this does some good, hopefully.
Ray Luo, UCLA.
User avatar
recfreq
Wakka
Posts: 167
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2005 10:11 pm
Location: Japan.

Post by recfreq »

JamesDinanProxy wrote:to misquote the film billy madison "Mr. Luo, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this forum is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

I LOVE TRASH.

Take my survey!
Thank you.
Ray Luo, UCLA.
User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6368
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Post by grapesmoker »

There are a lot of different things being said here. I get the impression that I agree with Matt, disagree a little bit with Eric, and don't understand what Ray is getting at.

I'd like to offer the following hypothesis regarding world literature. I am guessing that the stuff we (that is, we in the West) are familiar with is probably the best of the bunch, statistically speaking. Sure, there are omissions, sometimes serious ones even. But they are isolated incidents. Most of the stuff that's been translated into English is really good; that's why it got translated in the first place. I don't think publishers would bother translating things that were bad, since there's such a plentiful supply of crap to choose from in the home market. And since 90% of everything sucks anyway, chances are that the "market censorship" we're experiencing, so to speak, is probably good anyway. Sometimes good stuff takes a long time to get through, but usually most of the dross stays away too and someone else is doing the work of sorting through it for us.

That said, I hardly think that world lit is overrepresented, but you might have gleaned that from my other 3 posts saying the same thing. The point is, 1/1 in a distribution that otherwise contains a generous heap of American, British, and European literature is not too much. There is essentially no barrier to plumbing the depth of the English-language literary canon on almost any topic. Also, the notion that plays are underrepresented is absurd; there are plenty of questions on plays all the time.

I further reject this notion of some sort of "disconnect" between QB and the real world as far as literature goes (that is to say, if the "real world" is taken to mean the set of educated, well-read individuals). I don't understand where this idea is coming from; we already operate on a shared consensus that takes into account a work's literary merit (usually as evaluated by various other well-read and smart people, not necessarily part of the QB community). There may be some disagreement on what's got merit and what hasn't but I don't think there are any major issues to be resolved here. I don't mean to be dismissive of anyone's concerns, but this whole thing feels too much like a molehill that we're trying to make into a mountain. If you want to see something become canonical (or canonized?) then work it into your packets, within the appropriate strictures. Then it filters down and before you know it we're all powering questions on Donald Barthelme's short stories and the collected works of William G. Simms.

Also, dear gimmick accounts: your joke is funny exactly once. After that, you have to create a new gimmick to be funny again. It also helps to post a parody post soon after the original instead of waiting 2 weeks.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance
User avatar
recfreq
Wakka
Posts: 167
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2005 10:11 pm
Location: Japan.

Post by recfreq »

grapesmoker wrote:There are a lot of different things being said here. I get the impression that I agree with Matt, disagree a little bit with Eric, and don't understand what Ray is getting at.
I'm saying that writing on stuff only b/c it comes up in QB might get you through say the fall level, but at higher levels, what matters is what people at large are interested in, b/c the space of what can possibly come up enlarges tremendously (hence the "forward approach" I talked about). I'm also saying that you should respect quizbowl and love your neighbors, or more accurately, love _the_ people, but you can ascribe that to the propensities of a Cal alum.

Plays are not overrepresented, but if you want to write more than 1/1 in your packet, you should be able to, just as if you want to write more than 1/1 novel, you should be able to.
Ray Luo, UCLA.
User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6368
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Post by grapesmoker »

recfreq wrote: I'm saying that writing on stuff only b/c it comes up in QB might get you through say the fall level, but at higher levels, what matters is what people at large are interested in, b/c the space of what can possibly come up enlarges tremendously (hence the "forward approach" I talked about). I'm also saying that you should respect quizbowl and love your neighbors, or more accurately, love _the_ people, but you can ascribe that to the propensities of a Cal alum.
I don't think things come up in QB only because people write on things that come up. People write on it because they read it in school. The QB canon is a direct reflection of the academic literary canon in many ways. Also, I think you need to define exactly who the "people at large" are.

[/quote]Plays are not overrepresented, but if you want to write more than 1/1 in your packet, you should be able to, just as if you want to write more than 1/1 novel, you should be able to.[/quote]

I don't think I said they were overrepresented. They come up often enough. Most distributions don't specify exactly how many questions on plays or novels they want, but I always try to spread my questions out across eras, countries, and types of works, which seems like the reasonable sort of thing to do.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance
JamesDinanProxy

Post by JamesDinanProxy »

is this soon enough after the original?

http://chibowl.proboards78.com/index.cg ... 1134112081
vsirin
Lulu
Posts: 19
Joined: Mon Mar 07, 2005 2:39 pm

Post by vsirin »

grapesmoker wrote: Also, dear gimmick accounts: your joke is funny exactly once. After that, you have to create a new gimmick to be funny again. It also helps to post a parody post soon after the original instead of waiting 2 weeks.
Oh, snap! JamesDinanProxy, you got served!
Locked