Science, Science History and Biography, and Askability

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Science, Science History and Biography, and Askability

Post by QB-dinosaur » Mon Oct 23, 2006 11:50 pm

Note: This was split from here. Admin
theMoMA wrote: ... On the flip side, the jazz packet made me want to throw babies. Not to mention that entire math and physics packets are just dull even if there was an amazing Konigsburg Bridge question.
Andrew--You should be glad I didn't contribute a packet on classical music. Your brain will hurt.

I do think the physics packet is well written. You don't have to be a physics major to answer questions. And it is not afraid to ask "history of science" questions. I never understand how the science majors in quizbowl killed off the HOS questions and keep writing author-biography questions as "literature."

The biggest problem with the writing component is that several writers put it off until the week before the tournament. I apologize for not helping by contributing a packet of my own, but at least I made it clear I wasn't writing a packet early on. For future reference, perhaps it'd be wise to set packet deadlines and have some sort of a centralized editing process. It would also help out balancing the theme packets, so that there won't be so much trash.

Willie

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Re: This Tournament Goes to Eleven - 9/21 and 9/22

Post by setht » Tue Oct 24, 2006 1:11 am

QB-dinosaur wrote:I do think the physics packet is well written. You don't have to be a physics major to answer questions. And it is not afraid to ask "history of science" questions. I never understand how the science majors in quizbowl killed off the HOS questions and keep writing author-biography questions as "literature."
I haven't had the pleasure yet of playing on the packets from TTGT11, but I hope to rectify this soon. In the meantime, I think Willie's comments here are of general interest, so I'll go ahead and reply without having read the physics packet.

First, I agree with Willie that a physics theme packet should not be written so that only a physics major can answer the questions (except at some hypothetical tournament where the field consists entirely of physics majors). Second, I look forward to hearing a tossup on caloric theory by the courageous packet authors.

I think there may be some confusion or disagreement as to what constitutes a science history or science biography question vs. what constitutes a science question where the answer is a person.

To my mind, a science history question is a question on some scientific concept or theory that had some relevance at some time, but is no longer accepted. This covers things like phlogiston theory, which does not get covered in a typical science course, things like ether theory, which typically get at least passing mention in some courses, and things like Newtonian mechanics, which get covered at great length in basic courses. I have no beef with questions on "supplanted science" of the Newtonian mechanics variety--it's still useful and relevant to many people today, students learn about it all the time, it makes for fine science history questions. Questions on things like ether theory can be fine, if the actual topic is something relevant or useful (e.g., the Michelson-Morley experiment, or the Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction), but there's plenty of material in there that's of questionable historical interest and zero scientific interest, which makes for bad science history questions. I don't think things like phrenology and mesmerism should be classified as science in any way (unless they had more influence on the course of science than I realize); people can still write questions on these things, but they should go under general knowledge or your choice or something.

To my mind, a science biography question is a question consisting mostly or entirely of biographical clues about some scientist. These questions are often very crappy, with really boring and probably useless clues (e.g., "he was the 6th of 8 children, his mother was a housewife, his father didn't earn much at his job, this guy liked skiing, his wife didn't like skiing..."). If someone goes out and reads a biography of, say, Feynman, and feels inspired to write a Feynman tossup full of interesting biographical clues that don't really have anything to do with Feynman's scientific work, I think that's fine, but I don't think it should count as science, or the amount of such questions should be severely restricted.

A science question where the answer happens to be a person is exactly what it sounds like. I think a lot of people have the mistaken idea that any tossup where the answer is a person is automatically "___ biography" or "___ history," with the blank filled by that person's field of work. If I write a tossup on Coulomb's law, then go through and change each instance of "this law (or equation or relation or whatever)" with "this man's namesake (or eponymous) law (or equation or relation or whatever)," change whatever else may need changing for grammar's sake, and change the answer line from Coulomb's law to Coulomb, I have the same tossup for all practical purposes. Whether I write such a tossup with an answer of Coulomb's law or Coulomb depends on what clues I decide to use--if I pick up enough clues on Coulomb's scientific work unrelated to the law, I'll write it on Coulomb, since that will be less awkward; if most or all of my clues are specifically about Coulomb's law, I'll write it with that answer, since that will be less awkward.

By analogy, my thinking on literature questions with an author as the answer is that such questions where the clues are all taken from the author's literary output (e.g., descriptions of their works, reactions by other authors and critics, names of characters, titles of their works) count as "real literature," while any such questions full of biographical clues count as "literature biography."

Most tournament sets I've seen over the last few years have few if any true science biography questions, but I think there have been even less true literature biography questions, so I'm not sure why Willie's complaining. The EFT set, which features questions by multiple science majors, had many literature tossups on authors, but I'm pretty sure in every case the vast majority (or possibly even the entirety) of the clues were based directly on literary work, not biographical trivialities.

Do other people have other definitions of what constitutes science biography or literature biography? Are we science majors writing crappy literature/literature biography questions? Inquiring minds want to know.

-Seth

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Re: This Tournament Goes to Eleven - 9/21 and 9/22

Post by theMoMA » Tue Oct 24, 2006 3:27 am

QB-dinosaur wrote:Andrew--You should be glad I didn't contribute a packet on classical music. Your brain will hurt.

I do think the physics packet is well written. You don't have to be a physics major to answer questions. And it is not afraid to ask "history of science" questions. I never understand how the science majors in quizbowl killed off the HOS questions and keep writing author-biography questions as "literature."
I enjoyed some of the physics/math tossups and they were definately well-written. And there was a good mix of difficulty level as well. Despite zero calc and only HS level physics I was able to get 4 or 5 tossups in each packet, a couple really early, and we won the math packet and should have beaten Carleton at physics, I just sat too long on a couple of tossups and we lost by 30 or so. For me it's more taste: you can only hear so many physics/math -- they were back-to-back for me -- before your head explodes or you throw up a little in your mouth.

And thank god there wasn't a classical music packet. Although I'd do much better at that than jazz. On a similar note, I was kind of disappointed that the advertised visual art round was canceled because Iowa State didn't show up.

Anyway, it was a mostly great tournament and a lot of fun...the internet fads packet makes up for all its peccadillos.

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Re: This Tournament Goes to Eleven - 9/21 and 9/22

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Oct 24, 2006 8:42 am

QB-dinosaur wrote:I do think the physics packet is well written. You don't have to be a physics major to answer questions. And it is not afraid to ask "history of science" questions. I never understand how the science majors in quizbowl killed off the HOS questions and keep writing author-biography questions as "literature."
I'm really curious to see this alleged physics packet where apparently you don't have to be a physics major to answer questions. Now, I tried pretty hard to write those kinds of physics questions for EFT, but the physics component of that tournament consisted of one tossup and one bonus per packet. I have a hard time believing that a whole physics theme packet could be written in such a way that a person with no actual physics background would be able to answer all the questions; I'm willing to be proved wrong though.

I just want to reinforce what Seth already said about science biography, namely, that it should be about science. Notice how literature biography questions talk about the work that the person did. As long as a science biography question is discussing scientificially relevant work that one would logically encounter in learning the material, I don't really have any problems with that.

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Post by No Rules Westbrook » Tue Oct 24, 2006 1:51 pm

Personally, I'm not against 1 or 2 true science bio tossups in a tournament, although of course the facts mentioned have to be answerable and interesting (i.e. not like seth's examples). And, I even like some "science history," because I feel that it is bona fide knowledge, even if completely irrelevant to any sort of real applied science (see my alchemy bonus for EFT or my tu on the geologic theory of Neptunism). But, when writing packets with these questions, I'm sometimes prone to tossing in another true science question to make it up.


And, I'm not sure where you're coming from with the lit bio analogy, Willie. I can't remember the last tu at a respectable tourney that could be classified as true lit bio, as Seth logically defines it above.

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Post by cvdwightw » Tue Oct 24, 2006 5:03 pm

1. I apologize for opening the can of worms on the rock packet. I had assumed it was more than just Mike posting on the yahoo board, and "blatant" was probably too strong, as almost every packet had "stretches"; I guess most of what I thought was hip-hop was actually groups doing both hip-hop and rock (thanks DaGeneral for explaining that). I still refuse to recognize Kelly Clarkson as a rock artist and will probably always do so, but I guess that's a matter of personal taste and I'll leave it at that.

2. I don't mind history of science that much as long as it's treated the same way as "real science". One of the introductory chemistry professors at UCLA does a majority of his research on the history and philosophy of science, and there are articles in major science journals about this stuff. That said, it shouldn't sound like a history question, and it should have things science people have heard of.

3. The issue is not that there shouldn't be "science biography" or "literature biography". The issue is poorly written biography questions. I cringe every time I hear "little is known about his life"; this has got to be the most overused, general clue that still shows up. A good biography question should have relevant clues: first and foremost the person's work, people he/she influenced or was influenced by, experiences that may have influenced a certain work, disagreements with contemporaries, things outside of his/her area that he/she would have been known for in his/her time, etc. Especially for "easy" tournaments like ACF Fall in areas where works are much less accessible than people, I think this kind of question would be as acceptable if not more acceptable than a tossup on theories/works/etc. I could see this for literature, science, religion, philosophy, fine arts, social sciences, and trash, as long as this doesn't become the dominant form of question writing.

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Re: This Tournament Goes to Eleven - 9/21 and 9/22

Post by QB-dinosaur » Tue Oct 24, 2006 5:17 pm

setht wrote:
Do other people have other definitions of what constitutes science biography or literature biography? Are we science majors writing crappy literature/literature biography questions? Inquiring minds want to know.

-Seth
Seth:

I'm not saying _you_ write poor packets. In fact, the best EFT packets came from you. Your writing is consistently, admirably good. I just hoped the UCI undergrads from the past few years could have written as well as you.

Just to quickly answer your question: see the Cervantes TU in PARFAIT.

Having witnessed the evolution of QB since 1997, I see more and more "relevant" science questions being written. That's good. I'm very happy to see "science biography" questions being replaced. However, I cannot say the same about literature and classical music questions. It seemed like the English and Music majors in QB have yet to assert what they really read and learn in classes into the QB canon.

In fact, most literature questions currently being written are based on "what have come up before in QB" rather than "what do people currently study and read in their classes." As I indicated in my private e-mail to you, a great concern of mine is that "literature" as a QB subject does not truly reflect what English or Comp Lit majors actually study. For example, works by women authors (e.g., Aphra Behn, the Bronte sisters, and numerous 20th century authors) are grossly overlooked in QB. And this year--whatever happened to Shakespeare?

Two sub-fields of English that are overlooked in QB are literary genres/terms and works of criticism. When was the last time you heard a bonus on "forms of poetry"? Or a TU on "intentional fallacy"? And there is a list of post-colonial criticism/literature coming out of Africa, Asia, and the Carribean. Again, I don't find them in QB.

My other gripe is on classical music. I squirm whenever an opera/ballet plot TU is being read because it is really quizzing people on the libretto, which should be categorized as literature [this happened several times at EFT]. This is probably the worst offender of "let's write questions on something we've heard before in QB" since the majority of the question writers 1) are not music majors, 2) hate classical music, or 3) both 1) and 2). Take the Bartok TU from EFT for example. Well-written, factually accurate, and very pyramidal. But there are TONS of important composers out there--why Bartok? He is over-asked.

I'm probably one of the few defenders of the ACF format, mostly because there are few English/Music majors out here in the west coast so I always did reasonably well on ACF packets. But it has appeared to me that I've been getting pretty much the same questions right from tournament to tournament. There's not much canon-expansion here.

Okay, I think further discussion on this topic should be moved to another board.

Willie

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Re: This Tournament Goes to Eleven - 9/21 and 9/22

Post by Captain Sinico » Tue Oct 24, 2006 6:32 pm

Dude, are you kidding me with this post? Please tell me you're kidding me. Your ham-handed attempt at affirmative action on the quizbowl lit cannon is as misguided as it is pointless. Aphra Behn comes-up all the damn time (in spite of being not all that good) and the Bröntes come-up several times in many tournaments. Questions on poetic forms and askable terms from criticism are not at all uncommon, nor are questions on African works and authors. Your assessment of what comes-up and what ought to is seriously off-base; I don't know what questions you've been playing on, but they don't seem to resemble the ones I've been using for the past 7 years (edited at site, perhaps?) Now, you can certainly say some things come-up more often than others and you wish it were different, etc. but the terms you're speaking in make what you're saying simply untrue.

As for your accusation that I hate classical music, I'll say I hate baseless accusations much more. You yourself just acknowledged that, if people wrote classical music as you propose it be written, people wouldn't be getting much. Do you see a problem there? Yeah, because I do.

Your concern that what comes-up in lit isn't what people read appears to have some more currency, until one realizes that people read all kinds of different things all over, so if we just wrote about what we did in class without any recourse to what people know, well, we'd wind-up with the kind of packets you write (assuming a few other things about us.) However, the same cannot be said for science. Everywhere in some scientific discipline, everyone studies very nearly the same stuff; every mechanics class will teach you things like momentum and mechanical energy conservation, every thermodynamics class will teach you the laws of thermodynamics, etc. Anything that’s not teaching you that stuff isn’t science. Thus, the two disciplines as taught and as learned are different (one has a much higher degree of uniformity than the other) and that difference has to be acknowledged in the answers one selects from those disciplines. To be concrete, if you just pick some book that you've read for some class at random and write a question on it, well, there's no guarantee that that work has any real currency or traction; there's even less that anyone else has heard of it. Conversely, if I choose a law that I learned in my mechanics class, I can be reasonably sure that it’s valid and at least somewhat important and that anyone who’s taken mechanics as the same level will understand it, have heard of it, etc.

In other words, it's absolutely necessary to make some recourse to what your audience actually knows when selecting answers. The academic relevance of the answer and rigor of the manner in which you ask the question are also important, but it doesn't matter how relevant you say something is or how rigorously you ask about it if nobody at your tournament has ever heard of it. Writing as you propose will produce and has produced exactly that sort of question (by your own admonition, even.)

And, like, this may blow your mind, but maybe you keep getting only the same things right because you don't know any of the other stuff that's coming-up very well. It looks like your response to that is to say, well, clearly what's coming-up is wrong and how it's being asked about is wrong. My response to that is to ask, again, whether you're serious with this post?

So, in summary, your assessment of what's asked, what's askable, and what should be asked is drastically wrong in a number of amusing ways. Please stop bothering everyone with it.

MaS

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Re: This Tournament Goes to Eleven - 9/21 and 9/22

Post by Matt Weiner » Wed Oct 25, 2006 4:30 am

QB-dinosaur wrote:Two sub-fields of English that are overlooked in QB are literary genres/terms and works of criticism. When was the last time you heard a bonus on "forms of poetry"? Or a TU on "intentional fallacy"? And there is a list of post-colonial criticism/literature coming out of Africa, Asia, and the Carribean. Again, I don't find them in QB.
As has been pointed out, such questions do come up from time to time. However, I want to express a personal opinion here, which I doubt those who usually agree with me in these discussions necessarily share. I think that one of the main reasons that quizbowl has any value outside itself is that it is one of the last places where factual knowledge of cultural reference points is rewarded. There is an imbalance in a lot of modern education, especially at the university level, towards revisionism and towards inculcating a lot of "theory" and "criticism" at the expense of extensive understanding of specifics, and into people who are not deep enough in a subject to gain any benefit from it (ie, of course graduate students in literature and history will spend most of their time on methodological and critical approaches, but I do not believe it's necessary to bother with that in undergradute surveys). Too often, students learn about the postcolonial paradigm in literary criticism without reading more than one or two actual books written by representative authors. Students are subjected to moralizing deconstructions of myths about Columbus or the American founding fathera, when they are too young to ever have been taught that such myths were true and have shallow knowledge of the actual history themselves. Generalized "criticism" is perhaps the worst offender here--a lot of people in intro and writing classes like to name-drop Lacan or Sontag in their discussions of television shows, but haven't read many actual classic books (and still can't write a compelling argumentative essay on a political issue to save their lives).

I react with some distaste to the recent spate of "social theory" type questions in hardcore tournaments, and I wouldn't want to see any increase in their frequency at any event. We get enough untethered abstraction in our classes; let's keep quizbowl as the place where actual knowledge of the original material is valued above all else. The occasional critic-related clue in a tossup on a book, as Eric has been happy to include, is one thing, but I don't like any trend towards actually asking about critics, historians, or the latest author from the condescending Feel Good About Yourself Reading Program in the California public schools. Let's keep it to the actual worthies (from all cultures) and not the secondary sources.

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Post by Nathan » Thu Oct 26, 2006 6:13 pm

"Just to quickly answer your question: see the Cervantes TU in PARFAIT."

I don't know if the rest of that question was good or not, because the Lepanto clue sparked an immediate buzzer race. I find that problematic for the same reason that "son of a sailmaker" is a problematic clue in a Grignard tossup.

as for whether post-colonial literature is adequately represented in QB....unless the game has drastically changed since I stopped playing regularly....I believe that Aime Cesaire, Fanon, Negritude, Senghor, Thiong-o, Rhys, Saro-Wiwa, Achebe, Emecheta, Beti, Soyinka, Mahfouz, Lessing, Paton, Coetzee, Gordimer, Kinkaid, Naipaul, Walcott, Narayan, Mukherjee, Nasreen, Rushdie, Seth, Roy, Momaday, Silko, Erdrich, Anaya, Paz, Cisneros, Hueljos, Fuentes, Ines de la Cruz, Azuela, Esquivel, Amado, Vargas Llosa, Asturias, Cortazar, Borges, Puig, Donoso, Garcia Marquez, Carpentier, Kingston, Neruda, Mistral, Vallejo, Hernandez, Machado de Assis, Allende....all show up regularly. And that's off the top of my head...I'm sure there are a number of others.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong...but last I checked all of the above regularly show up in QB. so, dude, wtf!

in fact, looking at that list, I'm beginning to think that German and Russian literature are under-represented in QB....

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Post by Ulugbek » Fri Oct 27, 2006 12:55 am

I think that a lot of this comes down to what the goal of quizbowl questions should be. Is the aim to ask about works that are being read at the university level, or is the goal to reward knowledge of some ill-defined canon of 'classic' works. I personally tend to agree with the former, but I don't think that there needs to be such rampant disparaging of modern world literature and critical theory as is seen in the previous several posts (while on the topic of theory, where do those who would seem to deny the validity of post-colonial theorists as askable quiz bowl topics feel about theorists from previous centuries?). On the askability front, it seems to me that since both Ngugi and Milton wrote in English and are both read at the university level, each of them is eminently askable and has a place in the so-called canon (the language that a work is written in as a determinting factor in packet distribution is an under-utilized method-- that was something that I truly appreciated in the Deep Bench packet requirements). However, beyond askability, I don't think that I or most other players have adequate knowledge of the subject matter to determine importance of an author or work.

(I'd also have to agree that there needs to be more Russian literature asked about, preferably at the expense of minor eighteenth century and earlier English authors).

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Post by QuizBowlRonin » Fri Oct 27, 2006 2:29 am

I, for one, don't have time or the interest in writing science history questions, and will only edit such questions when I don't have a choice.

There are simply too many important and interesting topics to write on without resorting to writing about science history.
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Post by Nathan » Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:06 pm

"where do those who would seem to deny the validity of post-colonial theorists as askable quiz bowl topics feel about theorists from previous centuries?)."

Which theorists are you talking about? There weren't any, per se. Look, obviously, insofar as theory matters in the study of literature today it should show up in QB on occasion. What's amusing is that theory is showing up just when its importance in literature departments is sharply lessening. Its heyday was the late 80s and the 90's...
Part of the problem was that philosophical trends of the 30's through the 70's finally made their way into literature and art departments (after they had almost disappeared in philosophy departments)...albeit in dumbed down and misunderstood forms. Thus you have Foucault, Habermas and Derrida (all in radical opposition to each other..and the late Foucault being in opposition to the Foucault-in-his-prime) being misconstrued both by their adherents and critics. But anyway...(bizarrely, it hit the legal academy even later...nothing like taking a CLS law sclass and realizing that everything is so 70's)...I don't want this to be misread, I'm not saying that theory is entirely passe (it never can be)...but there's no question that critical theory (insofar as one general term is even valid) is nowhere near as important today as it was ten years ago....and for good reason.
see Terry Eagleton's "After Theory" for a good discussion of this.

"On the askability front, it seems to me that since both Ngugi and Milton wrote in English and are both read at the university level, each of them is eminently askable and has a place in the so-called canon .....However, beyond askability, I don't think that I or most other players have adequate knowledge of the subject matter to determine importance of an author or work."

Was this in jest? Although Ngugi is worth reading...if you're able to read the English language you're able to work out the relative importance of those two. Or is this some sort of naive freshman-year relativism? To state that no objective judgment can be made as to the relative importance of Tolstoy and Dosteyevsky is one thing. To state that no objective judgment can be made as to the relative importance of Milton and Ngugi Wa Thing'o is laughable.

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Post by grapesmoker » Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:16 pm

There were theorists before the 70s too. Literary theory didn't begin or end with Derrida.

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Post by Nathan » Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:26 pm

literary criticism existed before the 1950's...its hard to call Samuel Johnson, Empson etc...full-blown literary theorists (an exception for Aristotle of course)

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Post by grapesmoker » Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:44 pm

Nathan wrote:literary criticism existed before the 1950's...its hard to call Samuel Johnson, Empson etc...full-blown literary theorists (an exception for Aristotle of course)
Anyone who espouses a theory of interpretation is a legitimate theorist. I have no idea what "full blown" means, but there's no reason to divide people into "critics" and "real theorists" just because one group predates the other. Just because the thing we conceptualize as a formal scientific method did not exist prior to the late 19th century doesn't mean that Newton or Clausius weren't doing science.

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Post by Nathan » Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:51 pm

well, there were theoriticians of aesthetics of course (Lessing, Kant et al) but there weren't too many literary critics that had worked out an actual theory (the fact that one might be able to ascertain a tacit, unconscious theory behind their criticism is both true and trivial).

regardless, it's not like we're routinely writing tossups on Empson.

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Post by grapesmoker » Fri Oct 27, 2006 4:00 pm

Nathan wrote:regardless, it's not like we're routinely writing tossups on Empson.
Maybe you're not... little do you know that ACF Regionals 2007 has a 1/1 Empson distribution per packet.

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Post by Nathan » Fri Oct 27, 2006 4:03 pm

along with the Caltech-inspired 2/2 CS requirement...it's going to be an interesting tournament.

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Post by Rothlover » Fri Oct 27, 2006 4:35 pm

Will there still be room to ask about all the authors Willie Chen claims, "never come up?"
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Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Fri Oct 27, 2006 4:47 pm

Nathan wrote:well, there were theoriticians of aesthetics of course (Lessing, Kant et al) but there weren't too many literary critics that had worked out an actual theory (the fact that one might be able to ascertain a tacit, unconscious theory behind their criticism is both true and trivial).
Actually, this is completely wrong. To pick just one text at random: See Rene Wellek's massive, six-volume History of Modern Criticism, which covers the period from 1750 to 1900, for copious counter-examples. Whatever you think about contemporary literary theory, "literary criticism" is a venerable intellectual discipline which began in antiquity. It's much older than sociology, anthropology, and lots of other stuff that comes up routinely in the game. Also, it deserves to be asked about much more often.

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Post by grapesmoker » Fri Oct 27, 2006 5:28 pm

Rothlover wrote:Will there still be room to ask about all the authors Willie Chen claims, "never come up?"
Of course not, what posessed you to ask such a foolish question? Everyone knows that Seth, Ryan, and I are working for The Man, and therefore will excise all material not pertaining to dead white males from the tournament.

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Post by Matt Weiner » Fri Oct 27, 2006 5:44 pm

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:Also, it deserves to be asked about much more often.
How is this to be accomplished without having a lot of questions go dead and/or taking limited space away from questions on actual works of fiction?

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Post by Nathan » Fri Oct 27, 2006 6:46 pm

I don't dispute at all that literary criticism is old...as is aesthetic history.

I even gave some examples.

but anyway...the fact of the matter is that Empson, et al, do not come up. (Samuel Johnson comes up, but not really as a critic.)

thus Chen's assertion was, indubitably, incorrect.

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Post by grapesmoker » Fri Oct 27, 2006 6:56 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:
Birdofredum Sawin wrote:Also, it deserves to be asked about much more often.
How is this to be accomplished without having a lot of questions go dead and/or taking limited space away from questions on actual works of fiction?
I think we can do this in the generic way. by introducing important critics and theorists in third parts of bonuses; at some point, they will make it into tossups. Since theory falls into the literature category, it will take away a couple of questions on actual works here and there, but I don't think that's a horrible thing (and I'm someone who prefers tossups on actual works above all else). Another possibility is to encourage people to put such questions into the "miscellaneous" category if they don't want to take away tossups on works.

I'd actually be happy to have more questions related to theory/criticism because it would expose me to a lot of stuff that I don't really have any background in (much the same way as quizbowl originally exposed me to literature I knew nothing about).

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Post by Matt Weiner » Fri Oct 27, 2006 6:58 pm

grapesmoker wrote:I think we can do this in the generic way. by introducing important critics and theorists in third parts of bonuses; at some point, they will make it into tossups.
That won't make it any more accessible to people outside the circle of 30 or so people who study old packets.

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Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Fri Oct 27, 2006 7:20 pm

Nathan wrote:well, there were theoriticians of aesthetics of course (Lessing, Kant et al) but there weren't too many literary critics that had worked out an actual theory (the fact that one might be able to ascertain a tacit, unconscious theory behind their criticism is both true and trivial).

regardless, it's not like we're routinely writing tossups on Empson.

...

I don't dispute at all that literary criticism is old...as is aesthetic history.

I even gave some examples.

but anyway...the fact of the matter is that Empson, et al, do not come up. (Samuel Johnson comes up, but not really as a critic.)
OK, I don't really know what this sequence of posts is meant to be "arguing." Here's my point: Literary criticism (the real deal, with actual critics propounding actual theories) has been around for about 2,500 years. Numerous interesting and important figures have been active in the field. The texts they wrote are "actual works" in the same way that works of poetry, philosophy, or anthropology are "actual works."

Since I decline to believe that Matt really doesn't understand the process by which new clues and answers are incorporated into the canon of askable material, I won't bother responding directly to his posts.

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Post by Matt Weiner » Fri Oct 27, 2006 7:46 pm

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:Since I decline to believe that Matt really doesn't understand the process by which new clues and answers are incorporated into the canon of askable material, I won't bother responding directly to his posts.
Assuming there is a canon is a dangerous path that leads to exclusion. Jerry's method will get me and Ryan Westbrook anwering these criticism questions, but it will only lead to a lot of blank stares in 90% of games.

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Post by No Rules Westbrook » Fri Oct 27, 2006 11:51 pm

Assuming there is a canon is a dangerous path that leads to exclusion. Jerry's method will get me and Ryan Westbrook anwering these criticism questions, but it will only lead to a lot of blank stares in 90% of games.

Thanks for the compliment...but I simply don't understand your argument. New material, especially deserving new material, can always be introduced to the canon in certain ways - leadins in tossups, third parts of bonuses, tossups themselves in harder tourneys (like regs to some extent and certainly nats/co). And, I'm not sure if you're espousing a more hardline position than you normally do with regard to the idea of a "canon" - but, of course there's a canon, that's part of ACF and part of how we study for this game - you yourself have said "experienced people just kind of know what subjects you can ask about and what you can't and at what tourneys"...well, that's because there's a canon and to some extent we all kind of know how much each other knows, within certain subject and whatnot because of what's come up before. Just because this idea might not always jive well with inexperienced players who are uninterested in acquiring the canon doesn't mean that it's a bad idea or one that should be discarded so that everyone can have an enjoyable experience. There's always argument about what the canon should contain...and, some/most of said arguments are stupid but others have merit and should be taken into account. Jerry's argument is really good - I like seeing things that I don't know anything about because then I can hopefully add them to the things I do know and "learning stuff" is a big part of the game, I hear. Taking your sort of "lowest common denominator" approach to the canon is just not very inspiring and amenable to what I see as the goal of playing.

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Post by grapesmoker » Sat Oct 28, 2006 1:20 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:Assuming there is a canon is a dangerous path that leads to exclusion. Jerry's method will get me and Ryan Westbrook anwering these criticism questions, but it will only lead to a lot of blank stares in 90% of games.
I think we can all agree that there is a de facto canon. Now you can argue that the composition of that canon shouldn't just be "what gets asked in quizbowl" but rather "what is important and interesting" but the bottom line is that the canon is what people write about. That doesn't mean you can't go outside it, but it does mean that certain topics come up over and over again. The structure of the game assures that since you require at least 1/1 American history per packet, you're going to be hearing plenty of questions about the Wilmot Proviso (say). Of course, we don't restrict ourselves to just those topics that have come up before, but in tournaments that are considered lower in difficulty than ACF Regionals, it's hard to just introduce things outside the general region of askability on the basis of "it's important and you should know this." So we do the standard thing with the hard parts of bonuses, leadins, harder clues on tossups, and what have you. We've all seen plenty of examples when harder clues filter into easier tournaments; I think it raises the level for everyone and opens the door for those topics to become tossups in their own right sometime down the road.

Now, having said all that, I certainly don't think that ACF, especially at the nationals level, should repeat itself the way NAQT does, so that it becomes possible to power questions just because you've read all the previous packets and the clues get recycled over and over. But on the other hand, I think there is nothing wrong with rewarding people for having played on lots of good questions and therefore having learned something. Pretty much every Regionals and Nationals set, and even the Fall sets to a lesser extent, contain something old and something new, and I think the last couple years provide good examples of how you can both reward people for learning things outside the canon but also reward them for having canonical knowledge.

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Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Sat Oct 28, 2006 5:30 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:
Birdofredum Sawin wrote:Since I decline to believe that Matt really doesn't understand the process by which new clues and answers are incorporated into the canon of askable material, I won't bother responding directly to his posts.
Assuming there is a canon is a dangerous path that leads to exclusion. Jerry's method will get me and Ryan Westbrook anwering these criticism questions, but it will only lead to a lot of blank stares in 90% of games.
If anything, a canon makes life much easier for new players, as there is only a limited set of things that they have to learn in order to become good.

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