Quizbowl v. Trivia

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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by AndyShootsAndyScores » Tue Oct 07, 2008 10:55 pm

Ike wrote:Off hand, I know last year at the HSNCT they ran tossups on Rumplestiltzkin, Merlin, Nostradamus, His Dark Materials, and bonuses on James Bond novels, and Harry Potter.
With the exception of Nostradamus, I can bet those all count toward literature. If I ever sit through and review all the HSNCT's again (probably not since I have hard copies of PACE and College sets now)
If I had to guess, I'd say the Rumplestiltzkin and Merlin tossups fell under myth or something of the like. Then again, I didn't hear the tossups.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Pilgrim » Tue Oct 07, 2008 11:02 pm

AndyShootsAndyScores wrote:
Ike wrote:Off hand, I know last year at the HSNCT they ran tossups on Rumplestiltzkin, Merlin, Nostradamus, His Dark Materials, and bonuses on James Bond novels, and Harry Potter.
With the exception of Nostradamus, I can bet those all count toward literature. If I ever sit through and review all the HSNCT's again (probably not since I have hard copies of PACE and College sets now)
If I had to guess, I'd say the Rumplestiltzkin and Merlin tossups fell under myth or something of the like. Then again, I didn't hear the tossups.
NAQT doesn't have a myth distribution, it's part of lit.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Tue Oct 07, 2008 11:18 pm

Ike wrote:While we're on the topic of NAQT and Literature:
They really want us to read A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss. - I've never heard of the author or the novel, and he's been mentioned in two leadins at two HSNCTS.
What's up with that?
You'll notice that neither of those tossups were in the dead zone. Meaning that they really, REALLY are pushing this thing. I used "look inside" on Amazon and I'm nauseous.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by AndyShootsAndyScores » Tue Oct 07, 2008 11:24 pm

Pilgrim wrote:
AndyShootsAndyScores wrote:
Ike wrote:Off hand, I know last year at the HSNCT they ran tossups on Rumplestiltzkin, Merlin, Nostradamus, His Dark Materials, and bonuses on James Bond novels, and Harry Potter.
With the exception of Nostradamus, I can bet those all count toward literature. If I ever sit through and review all the HSNCT's again (probably not since I have hard copies of PACE and College sets now)
If I had to guess, I'd say the Rumplestiltzkin and Merlin tossups fell under myth or something of the like. Then again, I didn't hear the tossups.
NAQT doesn't have a myth distribution, it's part of lit.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Tue Oct 07, 2008 11:56 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:
Vigilius Haufniensis wrote:As for lit, with 4/4 per packet I'd say there's a small but nonzero place for well-written sci-fi/fantasy/mystery/horror/children's lit, especially when you consider that the most well-remembered of those works tend to lose their genre labels as they age.
No one is going to object to a question on Brave New World, Jurgen, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, or The Castle of Otranto despite the scifi, fantasy, mystery, and horror elements in those works. Why? Because in addition to being genre literature, they are also academic literature. You can't write a question on Ringworld, The Wheel of Time, K is for Killer, or The Langoliers for the literature distribution, because the distribution says to use academic material for the academic categories and relegate all else to trash. The reasons for this distinction are many and good, and you need to argue against them (surely appealing to relativism and other nonsense in order to do so) if you are to dispute their consequences.

The fact that there are borderline cases (Ursula LeGuin, Frank Herbert, some of the stupider work of HG Wells) that reasonable people can disagree on classifying into academic or non-academic doesn't mean that we have to give up the idea of a distinction entirely. No, you cannot write on Philip Pullmann, who writes his books explicitly as fantasy and explicity for teenagers and fantasy fans, for an academic literature distribution. Recency has nothing to do with it. Go ahead and write on the latest work of John Updike as literature; don't write on pulp novels about The Shadow that are eighty years old.
1) Fine then, let's never write another tossup on Horatio Alger again. (If I remember correctly, a work of his came up at VCU Open? Feel free to correct.)
2) I agree that we should use academic material for academic categories! That's why I said
Vigilius Haufniensis wrote:shouldn't the academic quizbowl canon be based on what actually comes up in real academic contexts?
I'm only arguing for this insofar as it's a reflection of the very real trend of scholarly analyses being written and classes being offered on things that have artistic merit even if they weren't written with "art" in mind. Nobody's going to write a dissertation on crap like Eragon (or at least I hope they don't), and nobody should write an "academic" tossup on it either.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Captain Sinico » Wed Oct 08, 2008 3:27 am

Vigilius Haufniensis wrote:I'm only arguing for this insofar as it's a reflection of the very real trend of scholarly analyses being written and classes being offered on things that have artistic merit even if they weren't written with "art" in mind. Nobody's going to write a dissertation on crap like Eragon (or at least I hope they don't), and nobody should write an "academic" tossup on it either.
See, someone is certainly going to, one way or another. I'd almost be shocked if there aren't numerous theses about it (to whatever extent) already. My point is this: you need some higher threshold than "there's maybe a class where this is discussed somewhere" or "someone might write a dissertation that mentions this."
I rather think that quizbowl is reactionary in this area; that, when we say "academic," we're appealing to a no-longer-current standard of what important, serious literature is, since the trend, even in academia, is to debase the idea of literary merit by letting pretty much anything in for discussion. If you like, you might say that, as far as quizbowl is concerned, even the objects of thought in academia need to stand the test of time so, the fact that there are now (apparently) classes that seriously analyze contemporary children's literature isn't sufficient for those books to be canonical literature. For it to become canonical, there will have to be a long, mainstream tradition of seriously analyzing contemporary children's literature (which sentence made me throw up in my mouth a little.) I, for one, like that quizbowl is like that.

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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Matt Weiner » Wed Oct 08, 2008 3:34 am

Vigilius Haufniensis wrote: Fine then, let's never write another tossup on Horatio Alger again. (If I remember correctly, a work of his came up at VCU Open? Feel free to correct.
Well, this is an interesting corner of the discussion. Clearly, Horatio Alger is something that is important in the history of literature and the history of the United States, and is taught in all sorts of classes for that reason. At the same time, there is no one on Earth who will claim that Horatio Alger's books are well-written, are enjoyable to read on any level, or contain any literary innovations. For that reason, I agree that Alger is not "literature" per se, in the quizbowl sense--but he is still academically important because of his influence on the US. This is what the "general knowledge" category ought to be for; things that are academically important but don't belong in other categories. Now, at VCU Open, I did count that question as literature, because I didn't have a GK category and it was a summer tournament where a little distributional experimentation is expected (though perhaps I went too far in eliminating half of the religion questions...). If I get an Alger question in the lit section of a packet submitted to a formal ACF tournament, then I would either relegate it to the 1 question per packet maximum that is traditionally allowed for genre lit that has some claim to academic standing, or move it to the trash/GK category.

As for the "it's been studied" angle in general...of course that's not the standard. Some universities have entire departments and majors called "Popular Culture." That doesn't mean we eliminate the academic/trash distinction in quizbowl entirely. The reason Eragon is not academic and is never going to be academic, regardless of how many papers are written on it, is because it's a terrible vanity press book written by a teenager about dragons and swordfights. To figure out why that's not "academic" as ACF uses the term, you just need to read and write a lot of ACF questions, and you will start to understand.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by AKKOLADE » Wed Oct 08, 2008 7:17 am

Vigilius Haufniensis wrote:Nobody's going to write a dissertation on crap like Eragon (or at least I hope they don't), and nobody should write an "academic" tossup on it either.
I have seen dissertations written on comics books and professional wrestling. If the topic exists, someone's done a dissertation on it.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Wed Oct 08, 2008 7:35 am

PatFreeburn wrote:
Vigilius Haufniensis wrote:Nobody's going to write a dissertation on crap like Eragon (or at least I hope they don't), and nobody should write an "academic" tossup on it either.
I have seen dissertations written on comics books and professional wrestling. If the topic exists, someone's done a dissertation on it.
We can refer to Evan Silberman and his goddamn hippie school for the wide range of wacky undergraduate research topics that are out there. They don't even call them theses!
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by AKKOLADE » Wed Oct 08, 2008 8:37 am

I want to clarify: I didn't write them, I just found copies of them authored by other people. I am not contributing to this trend.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by BuzzerZen » Wed Oct 08, 2008 1:01 pm

everyday847 wrote:
PatFreeburn wrote:
Vigilius Haufniensis wrote:Nobody's going to write a dissertation on crap like Eragon (or at least I hope they don't), and nobody should write an "academic" tossup on it either.
I have seen dissertations written on comics books and professional wrestling. If the topic exists, someone's done a dissertation on it.
We can refer to Evan Silberman and his goddamn hippie school for the wide range of wacky undergraduate research topics that are out there. They don't even call them theses!
If anyone visits me here I'll take you to the library and find you the Div III about yaoi. (Note: if you don't know what that means, you don't necessarily want to Google it.)
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by The 2007 San Diego Padres » Wed Oct 08, 2008 1:23 pm

BuzzerZen wrote:If anyone visits me here I'll take you to the library and find you the Div III about yaoi.
NO DON'T
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by at your pleasure » Wed Oct 08, 2008 3:14 pm

With respect to the debate over unusal class topics, it might be worth asking whether the non-academic(by quizbowl standards) materials are analysed as works with literary merit or just as historical/sociological documents.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite » Wed Oct 08, 2008 3:20 pm

PatFreeburn wrote:
Vigilius Haufniensis wrote:Nobody's going to write a dissertation on crap like Eragon (or at least I hope they don't), and nobody should write an "academic" tossup on it either.
I have seen dissertations written on comics books and professional wrestling. If the topic exists, someone's done a dissertation on it.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by AKKOLADE » Wed Oct 08, 2008 3:26 pm

Pretty much.

Warning: this thread will undergo a split when I get the heart to take out the scalpel.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by cvdwightw » Wed Oct 08, 2008 6:14 pm

PatFreeburn wrote:I have seen dissertations written on comics books and professional wrestling. If the topic exists, someone's done a dissertation on it.
When doing a literature search last year I came across an M.S. thesis on echolocation in hippos. This was almost the lead-in to an ACF Nationals question, until I realized that the distribution was 1/1 more big three rather than 2/2.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Wed Oct 08, 2008 7:49 pm

Captain Scipio wrote:I rather think that quizbowl is reactionary in this area; that, when we say "academic," we're appealing to a no-longer-current standard of what important, serious literature is, since the trend, even in academia, is to debase the idea of literary merit by letting pretty much anything in for discussion... I, for one, like that quizbowl is like that.
Alright, so the quizbowl community has essentially sided with Harold Bloom when it comes to the idea of a canon. This was obvious, and given the nature of the game (it's easy to ask about names, it's hard to ask about concepts, it's impossible to apply concepts) it's admittedly somewhat necessary. But let's not forget that the canon is actually a much more recent invention than many of the works we ask about. Shakespeare's plays were fast-paced, lowbrow entertainment. They were unselfconsciously dashed off as entertainment for the masses. There would be songs, there would be improv sections, people would stay for the bear-baiting afterwards. The same with "classical" music: symphonies were originally light entertainment, you'd hear a movement or two, then a concerto, then some opera arias, and maybe the finale later in the concert if you weren't too busy chatting with your fellow nobles. And opera was even moreso, at least until Wagner.

Look, I'm not going to argue against the canon as a necessary construct. I do wish people would admit that it is a construct, and that it doesn't entirely reflect what's actually current in academia.

Side note: to repeat myself, this is not about trying to add more trash, 1/1 per round on pop culture is plenty. I do think that a more honest definition of "academic" would at least at the college level include an expanded role for social sciences (perhaps at the expense of old crappy non-lit like Alger), but that's a discussion for another time and place.
Matt Weiner wrote:The reason Eragon is not academic and is never going to be academic, regardless of how many papers are written on it, is because it's a terrible vanity press book written by a teenager about dragons and swordfights. To figure out why that's not "academic" as ACF uses the term, you just need to read and write a lot of ACF questions, and you will start to understand.
Dude. a) I know that, b) I said I know that, c) I may not have nearly the experience with ACF that you have, but I think the record shows that I'm far from a novice or a constant critic, d) being patronizing really isn't necessary. (Also: your justification for Horatio Alger could just as easily be applied to JK Rowling, or at least it will be applicable as soon as a little more time passes.)
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I do hope that's filed under "Gender Studies".
Anti-Climacus wrote:With respect to the debate over unusal class topics, it might be worth asking whether the non-academic(by quizbowl standards) materials are analysed as works with literary merit or just as historical/sociological documents.
Yeah, this is an important distinction that we have to keep, and I'd certainly only be in favor of asking about works that have made the jump to actual, widespread literary analysis. I do want to note, however, the historicist trend of viewing works that we traditionally think of as Literature through that same sociological lens, which kind of blurs the distinction.

Just two anecdotes to finish this off: one of my lit classes had a significant amount of serious analysis of pop-culture works (I remember analyzing Geto Boyz lyrics as poetry), but the whole point of that class was to analyze the boundaries between "poetry" and other forms, so it made sense in context. Everything else I took was much more staid. Second, I was once too a believer in a Chinese wall between art and entertainment, in the deeply Modernist idea of a canon. My eventual turn towards a more postmodern stance was the direct consequence of reading noted Great Book Ulysses, which makes much of the idea that you can find art and meaning and beauty in the most unintentional and vulgar things. Well, that and learning how Shakespeare actually worked. That was another biggie.

NOTE: several minor edits made for clarification.
Last edited by Theory Of The Leisure Flask on Wed Oct 08, 2008 8:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Ike » Wed Oct 08, 2008 8:41 pm

Alright, so the quizbowl community has essentially sided with Harold Bloom when it comes to the idea of a canon...
I disagree. Most prominently, none of us are being pompous like he is when we define the canon: and in all honesty the canon is very natural, and we add caesurae to the right places. There are a few gray areas that occur, and if we treat those with caution we would be fine. Its just people have the hard time realizing that NAQT and some other freelance question writers try to add what's clearly not in a gray area. The former less of a big deal than the latter, and people need to at the very least realize that they are clearly trying to be roundabout about how much trash they are inserting into one packet.
your justification for Horatio Alger could just as easily be applied to JK Rowling, or at least it will be applicable as soon as a little more time passes.)
While you and I may disagree about her influence, there is one corollary that this statement needs: It is unacceptable to use this as justification for adding recent topics like Harry Potter into the academic canon so soon, I think many people are so hasty to throw in the most recent non-Academic literature into the literature for this purpose; what im trying to say is, even if Shakespeare's work waslighthearted for their time, if they were like Harry Potter in terms of popularity, QB in the 1500's would not have them in the literature distribution. I think most precisely, just because something was trashy back then does not mean trashy stuff today can be shoved into the academic distribution. We arent Nostradami and can't prognosticate the literary influence of work so quickly. When we ask stuff on recent literature, like the The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, note how some important figures outside of the QB community usually notes the literary merit of that work or author before we run tossups on him / that work.
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edited: tupo fixed.

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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Wed Oct 08, 2008 8:48 pm

Ike wrote: While you and I may disagree about her influence, there is one corollary that this statement needs: It is unacceptable to use this as justification for adding recent topics like Harry Potter into the academic canon so soon,
I agree. My point is less about "more trash" and much more about "less Alger". I used to hate getting lots of HP questions as "literature" back when I was editing SNEWT.
Ike wrote:even if Shakespeare's work waslighthearted for their time, if they were like Harry Potter in terms of popularity, QB in the 1500's would not have them in the literature distribution.
FWIW, academic quizbowl in the 1500s probably would have been 50% Greeks and Romans, 50% Bible. The idea of any literature as Great Art was unheard of back then.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Captain Sinico » Thu Oct 09, 2008 2:55 am

I'd like to disagree with you, Chris White, on two important points:
Firstly, you're claiming a near-total understanding of the working of the minds of many great artists (from declaring unequivocally and without irony that Shakespeare's plays were "dashed off" to relegating Johann Strauss' works to boy band territory.) Moreover, you're attempting to use this to consistently underrate these artists. Nobody possesses such an understanding; nobody truly can. Your attempts are misguided and doomed to failure.
Secondly, even if we could completely understand a great (or not so great) creative mind or have a comprehensive understanding of the contemporary reception of their works, it wouldn't really matter all that much. The purported intention of an artist and contemporary role of their works are dwarfed when stacked next to the judgment of history.
In fact, that's almost entirely the point here. If we put any great stock into contemporary critical reception or import, we'd definitely write about Harry Potter, a lot. The fact that Aristotle's Poetics is a set of unedited lecture notes or that Wronski thought his namesake matrices proved the existence of some kind of demiurge diminishes in no way the gravity of those objects; they are valid due the the judgment of history, almost alone.

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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Matt Weiner » Thu Oct 09, 2008 7:39 am

The difference between Horatio Alger and JK Rowling is that Alger's works are often used to demonstrate an alleged American belief in bootstraps capitalism in the late nineteenth century, and were in fact distributed as propaganda for that system at the time. Rowling's works, however much money they make, neither reflect nor shape the ideology of our times. Like Alger, they are bad literature, and unlike Alger, they are also irrelevant to history. Thus, they have far less claim to being academically important. The people in universities who study Alger are studying things like how literature intersects with politics; the people in universities who study Rowling are Harry Potter fans who happen to work in universities.

Barring the emergence of the Intellectually Stunted Adults Who Are For Some Reason Proud of Reading Children's Books Party as a major force in the 2012 election, JK Rowling will never have any grounds for coming up in an academic distribution in the way Horatio Alger sometimes can. It has nothing to do with the ridiculous "if we were playing ACF in 1608 you'd call Shakespeare trash!!!!" canard that has been injected into these discussions since 1995, and everything to do with the actual, time-independent differences between Alger and Rowling.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Ike » Thu Oct 09, 2008 8:29 am

It has nothing to do with the ridiculous "if we were playing ACF in 1608 you'd call Shakespeare trash!!!!"
My point is, you can make this argument as much as you want, and even if you can make it hold some merit, but its quite fruitless because its a retroactive argument that in no way can be used to justify contemporaneous issues.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by mithokie » Thu Oct 09, 2008 9:19 am

What if J.K. Rowling goes on to write some later works of academic merit? (I doubt that she will, but please entertain the question.) Do the Harry Potter questions then go on to become askable as the giveaway clues on a question full of these hypothetical academic works that Rowling might someday write. I am thinking of C.S. Lewis, who often has a Chronicles of Narnia clue as the giveaway at the end of questions about him.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by David Riley » Thu Oct 09, 2008 9:26 am

I suppose they might, but this situation becoming reality is about as likely as Lee Iacocca [is he still alive?] buying a Honda... :grin:
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by theMoMA » Thu Oct 09, 2008 12:25 pm

The thing that makes the works that come up in quizbowl important is almost unequivocally the work-in-the-world, and not the work-in-some-point-in-history. Harry Potter-in-the-world is children's fantasy literature which has little academic relevance. Ragged Dick-in-the-world is a text that informs not just a historical period, but an attitude whose academic relevance persists through time.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Thu Oct 09, 2008 12:44 pm

Captain Scipio wrote:I'd like to disagree with you, Chris White, on two important points:
Firstly, you're claiming a near-total understanding of the working of the minds of many great artists (from declaring unequivocally and without irony that Shakespeare's plays were "dashed off" to relegating Johann Strauss' works to boy band territory.) Moreover, you're attempting to use this to consistently underrate these artists.
Uh, no I'm not, and no I'm not. The point with Shakespeare was that all the evidence we have points to the fact that he was working in a popular idiom, he worked quickly and in close collaboration with his troupe, and most likely wasn't writing for posterity. This in no way pries into his brain, nor does it diminish his greatness- in fact, one could even argue that his work was so good that it spurred his admirers to invent the idea of Great Literature with the publication of the First Folio after his death. Granted, that idea probably would have come around sooner or later given the societal forces at work, but it's to Shakespeare's eternal credit that his work was good enough to take advantage of that moment. As for Strauss, but there's no serious debate among scholars that it was popular entertainment of much the same sort that dance-pop is today. Liking or disliking his music isn't the point.
Captain Scipio wrote:The fact that Aristotle's Poetics is a set of unedited lecture notes or that Wronski thought his namesake matrices proved the existence of some kind of demiurge diminishes in no way the gravity of those objects; they are valid due the the judgment of history, almost alone.
Well, of course! The only thing I would add is that it is inevitable that the "judgment of history" is not a static thing; what was once considered great and important can be derided and forgotten, what today is derided or forgotten may become tomorrow's historical masterpiece. I merely believe that we ought to keep abreast of these changes, and that the judgement of contemporary scholars is one of the best resources we have for doing that. Make sense?
Matt Weiner wrote:Rowling's works, however much money they make, neither reflect nor shape the ideology of our times. Like Alger, they are bad literature, and unlike Alger, they are also irrelevant to history.
I would say that, just for instance, the increasing commodification of a blockbuster-dependent publishing industry and the continued reactionary book-banning instincts of fundamentalist dipwads in our country are interesting and worthwhile objects of inquiry in the social sciences. This all has precious little to do with characters and plot points and themes (if they even exist) within the series, so there's no reason to call HP literature. But I do dispute that we can be sure it's irrelevant to history.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Terrible Shorts Depot » Thu Oct 09, 2008 4:07 pm

theMoMA wrote:The thing that makes the works that come up in quizbowl important is almost unequivocally the work-in-the-world, and not the work-in-some-point-in-history. Harry Potter-in-the-world is children's fantasy literature which has little academic relevance. Ragged Dick-in-the-world is a text that informs not just a historical period, but an attitude whose academic relevance persists through time.
This is what the community should be going for: looking at works in the context of everything as opposed to 2008. For example, the nationalization of an Icelandic bank is pretty important right now, but 99% of non-Icelandic citizens will forget about it in a week, while the US presidential election will remain relevant for at least a few more decades. In short, the election will become history, while the bank nationalization will not.

To add some new insight, and not just rephrase Andrew, I think that there should be some sort of proscribed time lag between when something happens or when it is published or discovered and when it is asked about, to evaluate the significance. Unfortunately, being taught in colleges is not a worthy lag, becuase there is someone out there who decided that Brisingr is worthy of being taught. However, the problem I see with this is that some one will abuse it by deciding "Hey, its been like 10 years since The Chamber of Secrets. It must be time for a lit tossup on it." Hopefully, people are smarter than that...

Edit: left out some words
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Captain Sinico » Thu Oct 09, 2008 4:41 pm

I must continue to disagree with this. You're attempting to use contemporary categorizations and not-bulletproof evidence about work habits and contemporary perceived intent to shoe-horn works and artists of the past into irrelevant, modern containers. For example, claiming that Strauss was the "dance-pop" of his day is meaningless because no such music existed - it misses the point, among myriad others, that Strauss, for whatever his faults, was at least capable of composing music.
Accepting what you're saying about Shakespeare on its face, you might argue by analogy (via work speed or your perceived intent) that Shakespeare was the Rowling or Clancey or even Apatow of his day. But surely this argument is revealed for what it is when one understands that such an argument by analogy is concomitant with its converse; that a Rowling, Clancey, or Apatow is the Shakespeare of our day, premises which are ridiculous, even on their face. Even more strongly, allowing for the possibility that one of these people might, centuries from now, achieve the lasting import of a Shakespeare, it is pretension of the very worst and deepest kind of claim that you can predict that now, which you necessarily do when you make the above comparison.
I might as well choose a random semi-literate hobo (Ryan Westbrook?) and call him neo-Socrates; after all, Socrates was poor and semi-literate and talked a lot, and said things that were difficult to understand, and got drunk, and was sometimes disliked by the state and his countrymen... In fact, this hobo may, for all I know, be the greatest philosopher the world has ever known; it's even plausible that some people believe that to be the case.
The point is, and remains, that the only important criterion for the academic character of an item is the judgment of history.

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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Magister Ludi » Thu Oct 09, 2008 4:57 pm

Vigilius Haufniensis wrote: The point with Shakespeare was that all the evidence we have points to the fact that he . . . most likely wasn't writing for posterity.
This is completely wrong. The posterity of his art is one of the most important themes in his sonnets. Just off the top of my head sonnets 18 & 55 discredit this argument, and I'm sure there are many more sonnets that discuss this issue that I cant remember at this moment. In sonnet 55, Shakespeare writes:

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmear'd with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war's quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
'Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity

That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lover's eyes.

I think its funny that you try to refute Mike's argument that you're "claiming a near total understanding of the working of the minds of many great artists" with a claim that you have a psychological understanding of Shakespeare's motivation to become a writer. You claim that your intensive research into "all the evidence" about Shakespeare (which apparently neglected reading several of his most famous poems) has revealed to you that the psychological motivations behind Shakespeare's decision to write was solely to make a living.

You keep drawing these tenuous links between the work of Shakespeare, Johann Strauss, and Rossini and things like Eragon or Harry Potter because they were all popular. You are missing the point. A work's popularity at the time it is created has no bearing on its inherent value. Lets look at an example. Something like Rossini's operas were popular at the time, but still are important now for their musical merit. Contrast that with another form of popular entertainment--Commedia dell'Arte. Raunchy Commedia dell'Arte shows were extremely popular throughout Italy, but are not important today on their own merits. However, Commedia dell'Arte is still important through its influence on works like Petrushka, Pierrot Lunnaire, or even in more modern operas like Menotti's "The Death of Pierrot." There are things from today's popular culture which are masterpieces and will be held in the same esteem in history.

The only valid point I think you have is that we cannot be certain of the "judgement of history." However I think we can make a decent guess. And I will go out on a limb and say that J. K. Rowling is not the next Charles Dickens.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by theMoMA » Thu Oct 09, 2008 6:43 pm

la2pgh wrote:
theMoMA wrote:The thing that makes the works that come up in quizbowl important is almost unequivocally the work-in-the-world, and not the work-in-some-point-in-history. Harry Potter-in-the-world is children's fantasy literature which has little academic relevance. Ragged Dick-in-the-world is a text that informs not just a historical period, but an attitude whose academic relevance persists through time.
This is what the community should be going for: looking at works in the context of everything as opposed to 2008. For example, the nationalization of an Icelandic bank is pretty important right now, but 99% of non-Icelandic citizens will forget about it in a week, while the US presidential election will remain relevant for at least a few more decades. In short, the election will become history, while the bank nationalization will not.

To add some new insight, and not just rephrase Andrew, I think that there should be some sort of proscribed time lag between when something happens or when it is published or discovered and when it is asked about, to evaluate the significance. Unfortunately, being taught in colleges is not a worthy lag, becuase there is someone out there who decided that Brisingr is worthy of being taught. However, the problem I see with this is that some one will abuse it by deciding "Hey, its been like 10 years since The Chamber of Secrets. It must be time for a lit tossup on it." Hopefully, people are smarter than that...

Edit: left out some words
You have not correctly interpreted what I'm saying. Anything that we call "academically important" is completely dependent on the world and the humans that are currently in it. So yes, what is "important in 2008" (which is a crude way of saying right now) is what's important in academia and in quizbowl. Some kind of arbitrary moratorium on new things is absurd for this reason, and doesn't even solve the issue at hand.

Moreover, I think Ted is a bit misguided when he talks about "inherent value." Strictly speaking, nothing has inherent value (that is, value to the universe). Even a generous interpretation of "inherent value" as some kind of universal or transcendent human valuation of merit is not something I view as a logically tenable position. Without getting into historicist arguments that I'm not fond of (the change in the concept of "universality" itself should tell us that arguing for universals is probably not the best idea), I will say that works of literature have "value," and some have the kind of value that I believe will make them valuable long into the future. Still, there is nothing inherent about this value; inherent, in this case, is simply another way to say that things that have long provided us with value will probably continue to do so (which is true enough, but not exactly worth of the label "inherent"). To argue for "importance" based on a universal concept is to set up an argument that is easy to undermine.

My way to go about it is to say that you have a work. And that work interacts with the world to produce meaning. And if that meaning is meaningful enough, people will decide that it's worth studying and worth writing some quizbowl questions about.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Thu Oct 09, 2008 7:01 pm

la2pgh wrote:This is what the community should be going for: looking at works in the context of everything as opposed to 2008. For example, the nationalization of an Icelandic bank is pretty important right now, but 99% of non-Icelandic citizens will forget about it in a week, while the US presidential election will remain relevant for at least a few more decades. In short, the election will become history, while the bank nationalization will not.
Depending on how the economy shakes out over the next few years, the situation with the Icelandic banks could end up remaining quite relevant to the course of history.
Captain Scipio wrote:You're attempting to use contemporary categorizations and not-bulletproof evidence about work habits and contemporary perceived intent to shoe-horn works and artists of the past into irrelevant, modern containers.
I'm not shoehorning, I'm making a metaphor.
Captain Scipio wrote:Accepting what you're saying about Shakespeare on its face, you might argue by analogy (via work speed or your perceived intent) that Shakespeare was the Rowling or Clancey or even Apatow of his day.
Well, the world was much smaller, and literature had much less history. So nobody currently living will ever come close to Shakespeare's influence. You'd have to do something like combine Scorsese and Woody Allen and the Coen Brothers and probably ten other playwrights and directors and screenwriters to get close, and even that wouldn't be enough.
Magister Ludi wrote:I think its funny that you try to refute Mike's argument that you're "claiming a near total understanding of the working of the minds of many great artists" with a claim that you have a psychological understanding of Shakespeare's motivation to become a writer. You claim that your intensive research into "all the evidence" about Shakespeare (which apparently neglected reading several of his most famous poems) has revealed to you that the psychological motivations behind Shakespeare's decision to write was solely to make a living.
Huh, I thought I was being careful not to say that "psychological motivations behind Shakespeare's decision to write was solely to make a living". Blanket retraction: I take any and all claims, intentional or inadvertent, on Shakespeare's mental state back. Clearly the guy had a pretty good idea of what he was doing (and there are plenty of examples in the plays to assert this, as well). What remains is that in his plays he worked in essentially a popular mode, which isn't mutually exclusive from producing work of true importance, or striving to do so.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Ike » Thu Oct 09, 2008 7:29 pm

What remains is that in his plays he worked in essentially a popular mode, which isn't mutually exclusive from producing work of true importance, or striving to do so.
I'd like to see one person in this post who has made an argument explicitly against this. Heck, I'll even settle for implicitly against it. I've seen no one do so yet. The entire point of the post is that many people do believe they are mutually inclusive when writing questions and fail to realize that when writing questions on contemporaneous content, that's a no-no.
Well, the world was much smaller, and literature had much less history
This is not a valid point. There are tons of authors and works who have existed back then but have fallen into history's arrears. For example Look at how many French Symbolist poets there were back then. Tons. But a lit player of today might be able to name 10 or so and describe the works of half that. We can go on about how many medieval authors there are back then, or whatever you want, but it''s absolutely wrong: there was tons of literature back then, more than enough to satisfy any literature player's mind to their content. That argument is moot.
the situation with the Icelandic banks could end up remaining quite relevant to the course of history.
The many-worlds interpretation of probability is irrelevant. Laying out a hypothetical that doesn't have a collection of evidence to back this up is necessary for any argument of this sort to hold weight. I dont think anyone on this board actually believes that this might happen, and there is no evidence to support this. And even if it did happen, unless evidence previously surfaces, it would appear pseudo-stochastic and surely unpredictable. Therefore you can't play on its importance in QB unless you have that evidence; the idea of it could be isn't just good enough.

edited: argh, forgot another important word.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Magister Ludi » Thu Oct 09, 2008 10:01 pm

Andrew is right, "inherent value" was a poor word choice as I wasn't trying to make any comment about the universal, intrinsic vale of a work of literature. "Lasting artistic merit" would better express what I was trying to say.
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Deviant Insider » Fri Oct 10, 2008 8:25 am

The situation with Icelandic banks is important. But I digress.

Overall, it seems to me that there is more agreement in this thread than the tone suggests.

As somebody who has been involved and writing questions for a long time, let me add that the trend in Quizbowl has been towards more academia. If you go back ten years in my question writing, you can find examples of me classifying Dr. Seuss as Literature, and it was not controversial or unusual at the time. I would not make that mistake now. Furthermore, this is a positive trend that we all should be pushing as writers and editors. There are some legitimate topics that fall in the gray area, and the trend over time should be to push those things into the 1/1 Miscellaneous (or whatever it is in your tournaments) category so that there are lots of questions that are unambiguously academic, even if your definition of academic is along the lines of "I know it when I see it".
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite » Sat Oct 11, 2008 3:03 pm

So in summary:

If a work, event, novel, etc. would still be notable in a hundred years' time, and it has some form of relevance to high-schoolers and above (effectively nixing children's lit), then it should be part of the canon. Amirite?
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Re: Quizbowl v. Trivia

Post by at your pleasure » Sat Oct 11, 2008 4:18 pm

That sounds good, but since none of us are clarivoyant, it's a little hard to know which contemporary(serious literary) works will be influential /notable in a hunded year's time. Therefore, I would still prefer to just not write about novels/poetry until they get to be around 15-20 years old or so. This gives us a clearer idea which novels are noteworthy and which are less noteworthy. Of course, this rule should not apply to certain novels that are immediatly recognized as titanic upon publication, but novels that fall into this category are few and far between.
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