Subject Area: Literature

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Subject Area: Literature

Post by agarg » Fri Jul 22, 2011 1:49 pm

I know that to be a good at literature questions, you have to know many authors and the plot lines of many of these books. But to get started, what books come up the most often? Should I read them fully or read summaries and past archives on them?

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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by Sniper, No Sniping! » Fri Jul 22, 2011 2:27 pm

NAQT has frequency lists they offer of wide varieties of the Literature canon, from American Literature to Fiction/Non-Fiction.

To be honest, if you pick up Sparknotes 101 Literature, the majority of the titles (if not all) come up, but the canon isn't limited to that. Someone with a lot more quiz bowl experience than me should be able to tell you in more detail what there is to know.

Reading big books that do come up, like Atlas Shrugged,Crime and Punishment and Don Quixote, I would imagine will make you a better player in the sense that you do you have "real" knowledge of the book (i.e. more details, characters, etc) as opposed to knowing just the protagonist, author, and other Sparknotes like basic things. The Torrey Pines Database: Here is a good tool, by typing in a book in the database (or an author) you can see the various things that typically get asked in a question in a book. (This isn't really how you should transform into a good Literature player because you really should read the books, not just prepare yourself for what they'll ask, though these cover the basics of the book). Examples of books that come up in the Literature canon that you should read in High School; The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (that is, if your school doesn't ban the book).

EDIT: Also, like Eliza said, movies can give you some basic details about them if you don't particularly care to read the big books. (Atlas Shrugged I believe is still in theaters, that might be worth your time and money to spend 3 hours as opposed to a crap load of time reading the book). Netflix would be an excellent tool if you go this way.
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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by eliza.grames » Fri Jul 22, 2011 2:40 pm

NAQT has a list of "You Gotta Know" but it obviously isn't a comprehensive list. Taking note of what things come up at practice is one place to start generating a list of things to look at, or things that you recall coming up all the time. In a short while I can send you a PM with a list that I have, which would be far too long to type out here.

If you read them fully you will do nothing but read for the rest of your life. Granted, if you have time, I recommend reading books thoroughly. You could read Sparknotes (or Wikipedia, if you want to take a chance that all the details might not be accurate) for a shorter summary. Sometime's author websites have summaries. You can't rely on them for details, but PBS puts out some good versions of classics in movie form that will give you a general sense of plot/characters. As far as knowing authors, you can generally find biographies of them that list what their most notable works are, and you really only need to know their works - not their personal life. Poems you should read in full, because they're generally pretty short. Lots of short stories and poems are on librivox.org where you can listen to recordings of them.
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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by Nine-Tenths Ideas » Fri Jul 22, 2011 2:53 pm

The very occasional points you'll receive are almost certainly not worth reading Atlas Shrugged or seeing the movie. Read a plot summary.
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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by Sniper, No Sniping! » Fri Jul 22, 2011 3:21 pm

Visa requirements for Romanian citizens wrote:The very occasional points you'll receive are almost certainly not worth reading Atlas Shrugged or seeing the movie. Read a plot summary.
I'm simply giving an example of a way one could study. Certainly, I don't think just reading Atlas Shrugged for 2 years or watching the movie x amount of times is the way of getting to where you want as a literature player. Plot summaries are great to read and there are a few pros/cons to any way of "studying" that isn't reading the book (which in itself carries pros/cons, namely if you read all these books, you'll have done nothing better with your time than just reading, where as you get the "real" knowledge).

Really, as far as I know, most canonical books have been adapted into other forms of multimedia that don't carry many discrepancies from the book, such as The Color Purple, Roots and Death of a Salesman, and they usually provide shorter (and probably cheaper, depends if you read slow or not) alternatives to reading the book (again, not necessarily the intention of the question writers, because I think they want you to actually read the books, I may be wrong here, as I don't write Literature questions).

EDIT: Fluency.
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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite » Fri Jul 22, 2011 3:40 pm

Reading packets is probably the most efficient way you can get good at a subject, especially at the high school level.
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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by BlueDevil95 » Fri Jul 22, 2011 4:00 pm

Honestly, the easiest way to get better at literature is to, as Harry White pointed out, read packets. A bunch of 'em. The Mahfouz Memorial on the packet archive is probably a good place to see rounds that are all just literature. On the flip side, the most enjoyable way to get better at literature, in my opinion, is to read books. Not only will it help with getting tossups earlier, it is a very enjoyable experience to sit down with The Good Earth or Cat's Cradle or A Farewell to Arms and read them through.

It also depends on what type of language you prefer reading. For me, the only time I bothered (and wanted) to read Shakespeare was when I had to for school; I prefer reading Hemingway or Vonnegut. If there's a particular subcategory that you can't stand, SparkNotes may be the best place for that.
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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Fri Jul 22, 2011 4:14 pm

Atlas Shrugged hardly comes up in high school beyond the occasional question about Ayn Rand. Why should I trust your advice on this issue if you don't know that?
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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by Papa's in the House » Fri Jul 22, 2011 4:15 pm

Pick a book/author/collection/etc. and just write a question on it. They'll probably be pretty terrible questions at first (especially if you've never written before), but you'll figure out the hang of it. In general I find that I buzz on Lit questions earliest when I've read what's coming up, next earliest when I've written a question on the subject, and latest when I've only heard the subject come up in a packet before. I find that writing tossups is more conducive to getting questions earlier than writing bonuses.
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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by Coldblueberry » Fri Jul 22, 2011 4:21 pm

BlueDevil95 wrote:Honestly, the easiest way to get better at literature is to, as Harry White pointed out, read packets. A bunch of 'em. The Mahfouz Memorial on the packet archive is probably a good place to see rounds that are all just literature.
...why would you recommend that set to someone who's just "starting out?" Sharad's database is much better. Read the novice packets and their questions.
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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by BlueDevil95 » Fri Jul 22, 2011 4:26 pm

Coldblueberry wrote:
BlueDevil95 wrote:Honestly, the easiest way to get better at literature is to, as Harry White pointed out, read packets. A bunch of 'em. The Mahfouz Memorial on the packet archive is probably a good place to see rounds that are all just literature.
...why would you recommend that set to someone who's just "starting out?" Sharad's database is much better. Read the novice packets and their questions.
I forgot how hard the questions actually were. A lot of the stuff in the MM actually does come up a lot, so it's a good idea for the canon, but not a great place for a new player to start out. The Torrey Pines Database is probably better.

Good luck!
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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by Sniper, No Sniping! » Fri Jul 22, 2011 4:38 pm

College Park Spyders wrote:Atlas Shrugged hardly comes up in high school beyond the occasional question about Ayn Rand. Why should I trust your advice on this issue if you don't know that?
The OP didn't specify whether he was in College or High School (or at least I can't tell until he adds a signature that states that), so it wasn't a bad idea to drop Atlas Shrugged in either case. Besides, I made the clause in my post that someone with more quiz bowl experience should pick up where I'm wrong/didn't address.

This thread isn't the "Death to Tom Moore for calling Atlas Shrugged canonical" thread. If you want to address that with me, feel free to PM/email me. If not, I'm sure the OP would like to hear your personal insights on how to improve in the Literature areas as opposed to addressing bits and pieces of my post and criticizing them. I wouldn't be opposed at all to hear your insights on where I'm wrong in PM/email/whatever, as I'm still a young player thats developing my opinion of "the game", but for the sake of other threads that you've tried to attack me in, and the end resulting derailment/forbidden zone exile of said threads, personally I think any issues you have to address with me should be taken up somewhere else with me. I look forward to hearing your reply.

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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by Magister Ludi » Fri Jul 22, 2011 5:52 pm

Well, surely the best way to become a good literature player quickly is to read Atlas Shrugged and watch the movie as many times as possible. But short of that, the way I became a good literature player as a sophomore in high school (before I was a serious reader) was just picking a different book everyday and reading a good plot summary and taking notes. You should also probably do a quick search in various quizbowl databases about whatever topic you research any given day to see if there are any stock clues that come up in quizbowl questions but aren't terribly prominent in the book itself. Augmenting this approach with some personal reading that high school students are likely to find rewarding (i.e. Vonnegut, Rushdie, Garcia-Marquez, etc) will yield results. Also, I wouldn't really suggest watching movie adaptations of books such as The Color Purple unless you're interested in the movie itself because if you can endure two-and-a-half hours of Oprah's acting then you should be able to handle spending ten minutes to read a good summary.
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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by Cheynem » Fri Jul 22, 2011 6:02 pm

(I would suggest listening to Ted, who with all due respect to anyone else posting in this thread, including myself, is the only actually good literature player to offer advice.)
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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by theMoMA » Fri Jul 22, 2011 6:10 pm

I posted this last year and I think it's pertinent. (I should also note that I'm not ragging on the original poster or anyone else for continuing to bring up improvement; it's a great goal, but we all just have to understand that there is no miracle diet here).
Like everyone who takes this game seriously, I've had a long and sometimes frustrating relationship with improvement. Many like to ask for tips for getting better at various categories, implying that there's some method that works particularly well for learning chemistry or poetry or history or architecture. I'm here to say three things about the quest for improvement.

1) There isn't an easy way to get good at quizbowl or any particular category of quizbowl. Improving at this game is the same as setting any kind of goal. It requires hard work, success often comes in increments, and there are no shortcuts around the heavy lifting...

2) ...except this. The truly great players don't have some kind of miracle system for studying, and they don't learn things that much better or more thoroughly than the rest of us. They just enjoy it more. Think about how much you'd learn if learning were the thing you defaulted to when you were killing time. If you really want to learn something, learn to love it first. Listen to classical music, analyze poems, take a chemistry class, talk to a physicist. Do whatever it takes for you to enjoy learning whatever you want to learn about! Most important is a love for reading, since that's what you're going to have to do to learn about almost anything. The secret is that getting good at quizbowl is hard work, unless it's not work at all.

3) Like quizbowl and your friends. Getting really good at quizbowl takes up a lot of your time. You'd better like it. The more fun quizbowl is, the better you'll want to do, and the better you do, the more fun it is. The people you're with are the ones you're going spend that quizbowl time with, so you'd better like them too. Success in quizbowl is almost never purely individual. Your teammates matter a lot. You should probably like each other.

In sum: Getting better at quizbowl is difficult. Consequently, the best players like quizbowl, they like the things that come up in quizbowl, and they like the people with whom they play quizbowl.

That's why I have a hard time understanding the usefulness of these threads that pop up every so often, in which someone asks how to get better at science, or philosophy, or painting, or whatever. We all should know that there's no miracle system. Improvement at quizbowl is just like any long-term goal, yet a lot of us are looking for the quizbowl equivalent of the Tip a Local Mom Used to Lose 15 Pounds of Belly Fat! (minus the credit card fraud).

I'm here to say that there are two options for Getting Better at [Blank]. You can do what I've outlined above, or you can use whatever method works best for you to systematically memorize things that come up in that area of the distribution. That's it. There isn't another way to do it. The answer to every "how do I learn [blank]" inquiry is the same. Kindle legitimate academic interests, or memorize. You can certainly combine the two to great effect. And I'm not here to say that memorizing doesn't work or shouldn't be done. For me, it's not as fun or fulfilling, and I suspect many agree with that sentiment. But we've all tried it and we all know it gets you points.

Anyway, I don't mind when people ask for good sources for info or clues. And I certainly don't mind people asking for suggestions about what's interesting or worth learning about. Or even if they want ideas for taking on the unique challenges of learning certain topics, like understanding poetry or reading mathematical equations, etc. But can we please stop this whole "how do I get good at [blank]" stuff? The answer is always the same: Learn it, one way or the other.
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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by Guile Island » Sat Jul 23, 2011 1:08 am

I've found that Literature, perhaps even more than any big topic, uses a lot of the same clues over and over again at least at the High School level. Reading packets and playing quizbowl should get you good enough literature knowledge to get most tossups right outside power. Reading the books helps a lot too, but it's hard to read a book and specifically look for the things that will help you get points for it. Memorize minor works, as I've found out that knowing them can help you get heaps of points without much efforts (this tends to apply to fine arts as well).

Another suggestion, just for Quiz Bowl in general, it to take notes. Right down that clue that the other team powered that book on. Look up a book on any of the major quiz bowl archives, look for things that come up early and often, and write them down. They'll stick in your memory a lot better if you do so.
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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Tue Jul 26, 2011 11:00 pm

Magister Ludi wrote:Well, surely the best way to become a good literature player quickly is to read Atlas Shrugged and watch the movie as many times as possible. But short of that, the way I became a good literature player as a sophomore in high school (before I was a serious reader) was just picking a different book everyday and reading a good plot summary and taking notes. You should also probably do a quick search in various quizbowl databases about whatever topic you research any given day to see if there are any stock clues that come up in quizbowl questions but aren't terribly prominent in the book itself. Augmenting this approach with some personal reading that high school students are likely to find rewarding (i.e. Vonnegut, Rushdie, Garcia-Marquez, etc) will yield results. Also, I wouldn't really suggest watching movie adaptations of books such as The Color Purple unless you're interested in the movie itself because if you can endure two-and-a-half hours of Oprah's acting then you should be able to handle spending ten minutes to read a good summary.
In a similar vein: if any of you write a One Hundred Years of Solitude tossup that starts out with "A Belgian named Gaston..." ever again, I will hunt you down.
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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by Auroni » Wed Jul 27, 2011 12:48 am

Cernel Joson wrote:
Magister Ludi wrote:Well, surely the best way to become a good literature player quickly is to read Atlas Shrugged and watch the movie as many times as possible. But short of that, the way I became a good literature player as a sophomore in high school (before I was a serious reader) was just picking a different book everyday and reading a good plot summary and taking notes. You should also probably do a quick search in various quizbowl databases about whatever topic you research any given day to see if there are any stock clues that come up in quizbowl questions but aren't terribly prominent in the book itself. Augmenting this approach with some personal reading that high school students are likely to find rewarding (i.e. Vonnegut, Rushdie, Garcia-Marquez, etc) will yield results. Also, I wouldn't really suggest watching movie adaptations of books such as The Color Purple unless you're interested in the movie itself because if you can endure two-and-a-half hours of Oprah's acting then you should be able to handle spending ten minutes to read a good summary.
In a similar vein: if any of you write a One Hundred Years of Solitude tossup that starts out with "A Belgian named Gaston..." ever again, I will hunt you down.
Do this so I can watch Matt Bollinger hunt you down.
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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by Magister Ludi » Wed Jul 27, 2011 5:50 am

Cernel Joson wrote:
Magister Ludi wrote:Well, surely the best way to become a good literature player quickly is to read Atlas Shrugged and watch the movie as many times as possible. But short of that, the way I became a good literature player as a sophomore in high school (before I was a serious reader) was just picking a different book everyday and reading a good plot summary and taking notes. You should also probably do a quick search in various quizbowl databases about whatever topic you research any given day to see if there are any stock clues that come up in quizbowl questions but aren't terribly prominent in the book itself. Augmenting this approach with some personal reading that high school students are likely to find rewarding (i.e. Vonnegut, Rushdie, Garcia-Marquez, etc) will yield results. Also, I wouldn't really suggest watching movie adaptations of books such as The Color Purple unless you're interested in the movie itself because if you can endure two-and-a-half hours of Oprah's acting then you should be able to handle spending ten minutes to read a good summary.
In a similar vein: if any of you write a One Hundred Years of Solitude tossup that starts out with "A Belgian named Gaston..." ever again, I will hunt you down.
When did I ever write this question?

But back on topic, literature is the easiest category to become competent at and the hardest to become truly dominant in. The higher levels of high school quizbowl are moving away from title-based author questions towards more in-depth questions works people are likely to read or encounter in high school. When I was in high school one would be almost guaranteed to power most NAQT author questions from knowing the title of their first novel, but question standards are changing. So while doing a quick packet archive search can quickly acquaint one with the basic stock clues for a book, I find it's more difficult to remember clues (and especially character names) using that method. If you want to be an excellent literature player you want to read in-depth about as many works as possible, so you know the range of possible clues rather than just studying the narrow range of clues that have been coming up recently about a topic. As a writer I often deliberately avoid clues that I've seen coming up a lot in recent tournaments.
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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Wed Jul 27, 2011 10:22 am

Magister Ludi wrote:
Cernel Joson wrote:
Magister Ludi wrote:Well, surely the best way to become a good literature player quickly is to read Atlas Shrugged and watch the movie as many times as possible. But short of that, the way I became a good literature player as a sophomore in high school (before I was a serious reader) was just picking a different book everyday and reading a good plot summary and taking notes. You should also probably do a quick search in various quizbowl databases about whatever topic you research any given day to see if there are any stock clues that come up in quizbowl questions but aren't terribly prominent in the book itself. Augmenting this approach with some personal reading that high school students are likely to find rewarding (i.e. Vonnegut, Rushdie, Garcia-Marquez, etc) will yield results. Also, I wouldn't really suggest watching movie adaptations of books such as The Color Purple unless you're interested in the movie itself because if you can endure two-and-a-half hours of Oprah's acting then you should be able to handle spending ten minutes to read a good summary.
In a similar vein: if any of you write a One Hundred Years of Solitude tossup that starts out with "A Belgian named Gaston..." ever again, I will hunt you down.
When did I ever write this question?

But back on topic, literature is the easiest category to become competent at and the hardest to become truly dominant in. The higher levels of high school quizbowl are moving away from title-based author questions towards more in-depth questions works people are likely to read or encounter in high school. When I was in high school one would be almost guaranteed to power most NAQT author questions from knowing the title of their first novel, but question standards are changing. So while doing a quick packet archive search can quickly acquaint one with the basic stock clues for a book, I find it's more difficult to remember clues (and especially character names) using that method. If you want to be an excellent literature player you want to read in-depth about as many works as possible, so you know the range of possible clues rather than just studying the narrow range of clues that have been coming up recently about a topic. As a writer I often deliberately avoid clues that I've seen coming up a lot in recent tournaments.
(You didn't, others did. Sorry for the thread derail).
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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by agarg » Tue Oct 18, 2011 12:30 pm

What 3 books would you recommend that I actually read- which do u think are the most prominent?

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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by Rick » Tue Oct 18, 2011 5:28 pm

There are so many, it's basically impossible to narrow it down to only three. But anything on the NAQT list of 100 works - http://naqt.com/YouGottaKnow/works-of-literature-3.html - is a great place to start, as deep, plot questions tend to come up for those a lot. A word of advice, you'll have a lot easier time if you choose something that's interesting to you, and the knowledge will stick better.
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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by Great Bustard » Wed Nov 02, 2011 11:01 pm

One point that I don't think anyone's brought up yet is that literature in high school quiz bowl is different from many other subjects (history, science, myth, etc.) in that people who tend to naturally like literature usually read a lot of books; they don't tend to memorize lit facts (unless they are very serious about qb). I became a good (but by no means great) lit player from doing lots and lots of listmaking and studying. Granted, that was in the 1990's, and qb has gotten somewhat (but not perhaps as far as some might think) away from that, but with lit, taking the initiative on your own for quizbowl is more important than with the other subjects. Keep in mind that if you take world, European, and American history, and read your entire textbook, you'll encounter (however cursory) most facts that will get referenced in high school quizbowl. Same is probably true for science. But with lit, you can read every word you're assigned in English class, and plenty on your own, and that still won't get you very far. Take Shakespeare - I read Macbeth and Henry IV part 1 for my high school English classes, and read Henry IV part 2 on my own the summer before senior year. But that's still less than 10% of the plays of Shakespeare, all of which are fair game. Thousands of students in NJ read more Shakespeare plays than I did while in high school, but I probably knew more about Shakespeare's plays than any other senior in the state of NJ my senior year, though, since I studied all of them for quizbowl.
Ultimately, yes, read the books. But you've got a lifetime to do that. You've got a tiny fraction of that time to play high school quizbowl. If getting better at this is what you are aiming for, it's list-making, writing down the clues of every lit tossup that immediately precede where you are buzzing in (i.e. the last thing before the thing you know), and lots of repetition with the facts. If you do enough of this, you will get very good very quickly.
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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by Rick » Sat Nov 05, 2011 8:25 pm

nationalhistorybeeandbowl wrote:One point that I don't think anyone's brought up yet is that literature in high school quiz bowl is different from many other subjects (history, science, myth, etc.) in that people who tend to naturally like literature usually read a lot of books; they don't tend to memorize lit facts (unless they are very serious about qb). I became a good (but by no means great) lit player from doing lots and lots of listmaking and studying. Granted, that was in the 1990's, and qb has gotten somewhat (but not perhaps as far as some might think) away from that, but with lit, taking the initiative on your own for quizbowl is more important than with the other subjects. Keep in mind that if you take world, European, and American history, and read your entire textbook, you'll encounter (however cursory) most facts that will get referenced in high school quizbowl. Same is probably true for science. But with lit, you can read every word you're assigned in English class, and plenty on your own, and that still won't get you very far. Take Shakespeare - I read Macbeth and Henry IV part 1 for my high school English classes, and read Henry IV part 2 on my own the summer before senior year. But that's still less than 10% of the plays of Shakespeare, all of which are fair game. Thousands of students in NJ read more Shakespeare plays than I did while in high school, but I probably knew more about Shakespeare's plays than any other senior in the state of NJ my senior year, though, since I studied all of them for quizbowl.
Ultimately, yes, read the books. But you've got a lifetime to do that. You've got a tiny fraction of that time to play high school quizbowl. If getting better at this is what you are aiming for, it's list-making, writing down the clues of every lit tossup that immediately precede where you are buzzing in (i.e. the last thing before the thing you know), and lots of repetition with the facts. If you do enough of this, you will get very good very quickly.
I rarely hear anyone talk about this, but it really is an important point, and I'm very glad someone thought to post it. As much as people like to deride listmaking and memorization as techniques for quizbowl study, they really are necessary evils, and in no subject more than in literature. You encounter so few works in high school, and you can only read so many on your own time. I've memorized facts about a couple hundred works, but it's still not even close to being enough for me to be a really good player. I love books as much as the next guy, but it's tough just trying to memorize the important facts, I can't imagine attempting to actually read all of that in just a few years. The canon is just too broad.
Patrick Murray
Harry S Truman HS '13

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Re: Subject Area: Literature

Post by tintinnabulation » Thu Dec 15, 2011 5:28 pm

I came to be a pretty competent HS lit player through almost all of the methods mentioned above. Here are the things I've done to learn the QB lit canon:

1. Asked AP English teacher for list of important works during freshman year. I memorized a list of ~200 author-works, which made me a pretty passable JV lit player right off. I also started memorizing Pulitzer Prizes for novels/fiction.

2.Went to ACE camp. I took Lit I, which had short summaries of the most popular topics, an NAQT frequency list, as well as lists of first lines, author nicknames, birth years (okay, so I've never gotten a question because of those...but it made me feel cool to know Herman Melville's birth/death years), fictional places, etc.

3.Took notes. That's the big one. I started taking notes hard-core. During every practice session at ACE, every tournament, every competition, I took notes on every clue I could write down while still listening and playing the game. I took the notes home and Wikipedia-ed everything to confirm (as far as you can confirm stuff on Wikipedia)/add info. I read through them frequently.

4. Began reading sets--the High School Quiz Bowl Packet Archive and Torrey Pines are my friends.

5. Read more. I added things like Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Emma, Catcher in the Rye, 1984, and Brave New World to my reading list. I watched The Color Purple, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma's movies.

All these things help me get questions. I'll buzz on something I've read first, something I've taken notes on second, something I've learned from ACE camp class third, and things I've outright memorized fourth. In summary, learn to memorize things, take notes, and go to ACE camp if you can. But be prepared to work. Being good (or even passable) doesn't come easy. I still don't know if I'm there or not.
Brittany Trang
Ohio State
Northwestern

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