Magister Ludi wrote:I didn't play this tournament, but I read it this past week and found some of the things Jerry is defending in this thread to be very silly. Jerry's claim that there is no way to judge subjectively the importance of books (or subjects in any academic discipline) is relativistic posturing.
Let me just say that while I totally respect your right to disagree with me on any matter, quizbowl or otherwise, I find it rather offensive to be accused of posturing of any kind, let alone relativistic posturing. That's one of those shorthands that is used to discredit people instead of engage them in a constructive dialogue; I think you're better than than, Ted.
I hold firmly to my statement that beyond some core elements, very few things are of overriding importance. The reason they are better or worse known within quizbowl rarely has anything to do with such metrics. There isn't any way of comparing the importance of Don de Lillo and Alphonse Daudet, not least because they are elements of different literary traditions. Arguments based on intrinsic importance are more often than not, in my view, masks for one's own personal preferences. I'm not convinced that a tertiary novel by Waugh, for example, is better than the primary work of some other, less well-known author or deserves to come up more.
No, there is obviously no universally acknowledged canon of literature or any subject, but there are many valid, academic proposed canons. Lots of critics have proposed canons, Harvard and many other universities give their English grad students lists of the couple hundred books they must read for their general exam. I'm not saying any one of these canons is universal, but taking into account it becomes pretty obvious to figure out which writers are objectively more important than others.
Read the things you quoted carefully; what I am saying is that, contrary to assertions made earlier in the discussion, this tournament did indeed include a whole lot of stuff that is canonical, by any plausible definition of "canon." It also included some things that weren't. My argument is that accusations of "hollowness" against this set are just a mistake, and I can rebut those accusations by reference to what actually came up in the tournament.
Also, I find it rather implausible that we're going to sit down and figure out which authors we should and shouldn't write about by going through critics' canons. Not that I have anything against someone actually doing that, but the suggestion that this is how we should write questions is not particularly practical. And what if it turns out James Woods loves The Shipyard
I think Jerry seems to be confused with the difference between a core canon and an outer canon.
I'm not confused about any such thing!
The core canon consists of writers who are unquestionably important such as Tolstoy, Hemingway, Keats etc, but the outer canon still consists of writers who are considered very important by a general consensus such as John Cheever or James Merrill. Objectively, Merril or Cheever are more important than whoever is quizbowl's current favorite Caribbean author.
Whoa there chief! That's a pretty bold assertion that requires some fairly persuasive evidence. I'm not ready to accept Merrill's overriding importance on your say-so alone. There might well be Caribbean authors who are more important than Merrill.
These people in the outer canon are still likely to taught in a good number of classes, discussed in magazines or panels, and read by the general public, in a way that Onetti is not. I shot a quick email to three of my literature professors to ask if any of them have ever heard of Onetti and all three responded that they had never heard of him. Not to say these three guys represent an academic consensus but I think it's revealing.
I don't believe that literature professors are necessarily the best group to sample. As Trygve already pointed out, Onetti is on the graduate reading list in the Hispanic Literature program at Harvard, so I'm guessing your professors are likely to not know much about him, if anything at all, because their focus is on some other writers.
I strongly agree with what the two Andrews were saying above. Basically, I would prefer to see most of literature answers taken from the core canon and outer canon and not from the middle of fucking nowhere. I don't mind a few weird answers, but when a large percentage of the tossup answers are selected because they're interesting or amusing to the head editor rather than because they're important I think it hurts the tournament. I understand it can be difficult for people unfamiliar with the literature canon to know what is or is not important, but those writers should err on the side of safety and write on obviously important subjects. Along the same line of reasoning Faulkner, Golding, and Lessing (on a lucky day) are in the canon but The Unvanquished, The Spire, and Martha Quest aren't really part of the canon so asking about those kinds of works ruins the whole point.
These assertions are completely unfounded. Why is Lord of the Flies
part of the canon and The Spire
is not? Because you read the former in high school but not the latter? I see no basis for making this distinction at all. Nevermind that I didn't write the tossups on either Martha Quest or The Unvanquished
. Anyway, I don't accept your argument here at all and I see no grounds to make such a judgment.
Here's what I don't get: on the one hand some people are complaining (rightly, I think) that too many trendy authors come up all the time. On the other hand, people are saying, "why aren't you testing the core canon?" When I point out that I did, in fact, do so to a large extent, it becomes "well, you wrote about more minor works!" It's a constantly moving target that I would be shocked if any editor could hit. Very few things in this tournament came "from the middle of fucking nowhere." Of course there were a few such questions, but most of the topics were sampled from a fairly canonical set of options.
The tournament you guys want happened in February, and it was called ACF Regionals. If you want more tossups on the same three Thomas Hardy novels, go there. That'll test your deep knowledge of what you think is the "core canon." At this point I can only conclude that our notions of importance are clearly so radically divergent that I could never possibly satisfy yours without sacrificing my idea of what I think a tournament like CO ought to be.
I actually enjoyed reading this tournament and thought there were lots of fun and interesting questions, but I am unsettled by Jerry's stringent defense of its tossup selection. I don't have a problem with Jerry deciding to write a tournament that fits his ideal vision of hard quizbowl, but it seems odd to yell at people for criticizing the tournament's difficulty or answer selection.
I find it incredible to have what I have engaged in in this thread to be described as "yelling," especially as "yelling at people for criticizing the tournament's difficulty." I haven't done anything of the sort anywhere in my posts.
Jerry's first priority was editing a tournament that he thought would be interesting and novel and not editing a tournament that would receive the highest community praise. I could understand if he yelled at people who said the tournament was uninteresting, but its weird to yell at them for saying the tournament is too difficult when his vision for the tournament was to push the boundaries of the canon. I don't want to criticize Jerry too much because the tournament had great clues and well written questions, but I hope that he takes into consideration some of the criticisms people have made against the answer selection for CO while editing ACF Nats.
Man, where were you people when tossups on "Micromegas," and The Road to Mecca
were coming up? Oh hey, no one said anything about that. You know, there was a moment in the last match when we were playing Harvard and I answered a tossup on Vicente Guerrero. I turned to Subash and said, "Vicente Guerrero, really?" To which Subash just shrugged and said, "Hey, it's the ACF Nationals playoffs." My response to the above is basically, "Hey, it's ACF Nationals." While there will likely be fewer truly experimental questions, I don't believe ACF Nationals is a tournament to see who knows more about the same things that come up at regular difficulty events. Not only do I not believe that, but I'm pretty sure that no ACF Nationals editor has ever produced a tournament that looks like that; it's always been difficult and full of novel content, so don't be surprised if this year, ACF Nationals is difficult (like it always is) and full of novel content (like it always is).