2017 (T)TIaC: Literature

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2017 (T)TIaC: Literature

Post by Auroni » Mon Feb 27, 2017 9:36 pm

The subcategories at this tournament were by genre of literature, not by national origin of the author. As a reminder, they were:

1/1 Long Fiction
1/1 Poetry
1/1 Drama/More Long Fiction [ended up being 0.75/0.75, 0.25/0.25]
1/1 Short Fiction/Miscellaneous/Non-Fiction [ended up roughly 0.33/0.33 each]

What did people think of this decision? As I explained to several people privately, this was positively liberating for me as a writer and editor, because I could focus on exploring literary themes that crossed national boundaries (more so in bonuses than in tossups), and I wasn't forced to write more questions on European and World Literature than could be supported by the tournament's difficulty. Also, this helped correct the short-shrifting that poetry and drama have historically suffered from. (I could probably have even boosted drama to a full 1/1).
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Re: Literature

Post by Mnemosyne » Tue Feb 28, 2017 2:11 am

Do you have a rough breakdown of the number of answer lines by country of origin? I only heard 8.5 packets, so I don't want to criticize, but I can only think of 3 pure US lit tossup answer lines I heard. I was frustrated by one round that I recall having 3 100% British answer lines. I like the idea of using multiple countries in bonuses and common links, but I didn't feel like the countries were equally represented in the packets I heard. (I'm also hesitant to post because I don't want someone to post all of the answer lines and spoil all of the questions for me)
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Re: Literature

Post by gyre and gimble » Tue Feb 28, 2017 2:55 am

I liked this distributional breakdown. It makes more sense to have quotas by genre than according to arbitrary geographic boundaries. As a poetry specialist, I find few things more annoying than when there's no poetry tossup in a round. Here's how I would implement the breakdown, though:

1.5/1.5 Prose Fiction
1/1 (Lyric) Poetry
0.5/0.5 Drama
1/1 Your Choice (including Nonfiction, Epic Poetry, or Miscellaneous)

Let me make a couple justifications.

1. I think "lyric" poetry and "epic" poetry questions are qualitatively different. By lyric poetry, I don't necessarily mean short poetry. What I mean is tossups whose textual clues primarily come from specific lines, rather than plot points. Epic poetry questions will have far more plot clues than quotations or lyrical details. So, the Paradise Lost tossup would be Poetry, but the Paradiso tossup would be Miscellaneous.

2. Contra some recent posts (by I forget who), there are currently too many questions on drama. First of all, there are far, far fewer people who read plays (or regularly participate in/attend dramatic performances) than there are people who read prose fiction or poetry. Second, my sense is that although the respective levels of academic study is not as skewed, people still study prose fiction and poetry more than drama. Finally, the drama canon is much smaller in size than the prose fiction or poetry canons.

With all that said, I also think that good editors should be self-enforcing a balanced regional distribution that more or less follows the traditional American-British-European-World breakdown. This may be hard to do for a packet submission event, but otherwise there's really no reason why we can't simultaneously apply both Auroni's experimental subdistribution and the traditional one.
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Re: Literature

Post by heterodyne » Tue Feb 28, 2017 12:23 pm

I more or less agree with Stephen's entire post. I did particularly want to chime on the distinction between epic and "non-epic" poetry - if your goal with this new distributional scheme is to reward engagement with different varieties of literature, then it's important to keep in mind that there is poetry engaged with as poetry and poetry engaged with as narrative. I'd wager that the majority of people reading Paradise Lost are reading it as narrative. This isn't to say that at a hard tournament like this one can't have a tossup on, say "Paradise Lost as poem" - in fact, that was, like, a pretty cool idea to me. If this distribution is adopted at lower levels, though, you're going to want a plot tossup on PL, and that shouldn't be taking up the poetry slot for a round.
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Re: Literature

Post by Auroni » Tue Feb 28, 2017 1:20 pm

I agree with a lot of what Stephen is saying (I was constantly worried I didn't have enough questions on epic poetry), but I want to disagree with this point:
2. Contra some recent posts (by I forget who), there are currently too many questions on drama. First of all, there are far, far fewer people who read plays (or regularly participate in/attend dramatic performances) than there are people who read prose fiction or poetry. Second, my sense is that although the respective levels of academic study is not as skewed, people still study prose fiction and poetry more than drama. Finally, the drama canon is much smaller in size than the prose fiction or poetry canons.
On the contrary, I've met several (non-theater) people for whom watching plays or acting them out for fun with friends is their primary mode of literary engagement. You're correct in that the number of plays people read is far fewer than the number of novels, but it's too early to halt the process of asking more contemporary drama, tossing up Shakespeare multiple times a tournament, and other aspects of the process of realigning quizbowl drama with drama as it is enjoyed in the real world. 0.5/0.5 seems too low to me to continue to serve that goal.
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Re: Literature

Post by Cheynem » Tue Feb 28, 2017 1:28 pm

I approach drama the same way I approach music in that I have rarely studied it formally, but I enjoy going to plays and reading about the history of dramatic productions. For whatever reason, I also find a great deal of enjoyment in reading dramas, so I think Auroni's assessment is correct. I actually think a great deal of 20th century drama has gotten the shaft in quizbowl.
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Re: Literature

Post by Auroni » Tue Feb 28, 2017 2:01 pm

Mnemosyne wrote:Do you have a rough breakdown of the number of answer lines by country of origin? I only heard 8.5 packets, so I don't want to criticize, but I can only think of 3 pure US lit tossup answer lines I heard. I was frustrated by one round that I recall having 3 100% British answer lines. I like the idea of using multiple countries in bonuses and common links, but I didn't feel like the countries were equally represented in the packets I heard. (I'm also hesitant to post because I don't want someone to post all of the answer lines and spoil all of the questions for me)
Breakdown for first 8 packet tossups was:

11 British
8 American
3 Russian
2 French
1 South American
1 Haitian
1 Chinese
1 German
1 Turkish
1 Italian
1 Indian
1 Roman

There were a few more British answers than American ones, but it's completely untrue to say that there were barely any American lit questions given the tally above.
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Re: Literature

Post by gyre and gimble » Tue Feb 28, 2017 3:43 pm

Auroni wrote:On the contrary, I've met several (non-theater) people for whom watching plays or acting them out for fun with friends is their primary mode of literary engagement. You're correct in that the number of plays people read is far fewer than the number of novels, but it's too early to halt the process of asking more contemporary drama, tossing up Shakespeare multiple times a tournament, and other aspects of the process of realigning quizbowl drama with drama as it is enjoyed in the real world. 0.5/0.5 seems too low to me to continue to serve that goal.
Cheynem wrote:I approach drama the same way I approach music in that I have rarely studied it formally, but I enjoy going to plays and reading about the history of dramatic productions. For whatever reason, I also find a great deal of enjoyment in reading dramas, so I think Auroni's assessment is correct. I actually think a great deal of 20th century drama has gotten the shaft in quizbowl.
I don't think either of your empirical positions are adequately supported by your anecdotal evidence. Auroni's "several people" who like to watch plays with friends are far outnumbered by people who read prose and poetry. And it seems to me almost a non sequitur for Mike to say that because he enjoys reading dramas, Auroni is correct. Of course, I don't have all-encompassing numbers to support my own points, either. But I will say a couple things: First, go into any bookstore or library and you can see that both supply and demand for drama is way lower than for prose. (Sure, there usually aren't huge poetry sections in these locations, but I think people generally don't go to bookstores or libraries to get their poetry. So much of it is available online or in anthologies.) Second, I personally know very few people who regularly attend dramatic performances; Benji might be the only one. (This is anecdotal, but it has a pretty wide scope.)

I do agree with both of you that a lot of late-20th century drama has been looked over by quizbowl. But that's probably true of literature in general. (Well, maybe not world literature.)

All that said, I think having 0.5/0.5 as the default can simply be a lower bound. In my framework, the 1/1 Your Choice can be used to make up for whatever perceived inadequacies the 0.5/0.5 Drama poses.
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Re: Literature

Post by Cheynem » Tue Feb 28, 2017 3:49 pm

I don't think most people experience drama, like poetry, by going to a bookstore or library and checking out a play. They attend plays (frequently fairly easy to do if you are a college student) or they read them online (in many cases, especially older plays are freely available).
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Re: Literature

Post by vinteuil » Sun Mar 05, 2017 11:22 am

I think this tournament's "primary" lit distribution worked out fine, since attention was paid to the geographic subdistribution. It doesn't really matter which one you put first, as long as you pay attention (like John Lawrence does with his genre-based subdistributions). You could probably get the same result by using time/stylistic period as a primary-distribution criterion.

RE: Drama. I think there are two reasons to keep drama on par with lyric poetry (I agree with Stephen on the lyric/epic distributional distinction) and prose fiction. The first is what Auroni and Mike have more or less laid out—theater people exist in large numbers, just like poetry people (and "classic novel" people—bookstore space is a completely useless metric as long as the Ken Folletts and Patrick O'Brians of the world take up so much of the novel space). The other reason is the amount of "foundational" or "central" literature that is drama; people might not put on (or even pleasure-read) Greek/Sanskrit/old Chinese/old Japanese drama very much, but we all know how objectively important they are (I can back this up if people are desperate, but I think that's pretty self-evident). The same goes (to a lesser degree) for all the 17th-century drama—and let's not forget Mr. Shakespeare.
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Re: Literature

Post by kitakule » Sun Mar 05, 2017 8:28 pm

Auroni, could you post the breakdown of the African literature in this set? I can't remember any content other than the South African lit bonus. I know there usually isn't that much African lit in quizbowl tournaments, but this one seemed to have even less than usual.
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Re: Literature

Post by Auroni » Sun Mar 05, 2017 9:21 pm

kitakule wrote:Auroni, could you post the breakdown of the African literature in this set? I can't remember any content other than the South African lit bonus. I know there usually isn't that much African lit in quizbowl tournaments, but this one seemed to have even less than usual.
These were the "pure" world literature (ie, not including the bonus on extremely short stories that had Kawabata as its easy part) questions in the set (African literature bolded):

The speaker of a poem in this language asks that, only when you reclaim your soul, “which was left entangled / In all the bedrooms,” should you ask her to be chaste. The speaker snips colorless blossoms out of the wind to appease a fussy woman in a meadow in a poem written in this language titled “Airflower,” which appears in a 1938 volume alongside a poem that includes its subject in a “vast and holy symphony / Of old mothers” stretching back to “Ana, Isabel, Leah and Rachel.” The same year, a poet who wrote “You Want Me White” in this language (*) waded into the ocean until she drowned. Twentieth century female poets writing in this language include Alfonsina Storni and an author who declared: “From the icy niche where men placed you / I lower your body to the sunny, poor earth,” in a poem about her lover’s suicide, the first of her three “Sonnets of Death.” For 10 points, name this language used by Gabriela Mistral, a poet from Chile.
ANSWER: Spanish [or Español]
<AG, Poetry>

The narrator of a novel by this author covers the nose and mouth of a screaming woman during a fraught river crossing, but ends up drowning her. A woman is inspired to paint a cockfight-watching drunkard after numerous sessions sitting as a nude model for the artist Catherine, at the end of a story by this author. In another story by her, a boy reads lines from a play about revolutionaries over the corpse of his father, who had leapt to his death from a hot air balloon. Sebastien Onius is separated from his lover (*) Annabelle Desir in a novel by this author of “A Wall of Fire Rising.” The protagonist of her best-known novel impales herself on a spice-pestle to thwart her mother Martine’s repeated testing of her virginity. At the end of that novel by this author, Sophie Caco attacks stalks in the cane field where her mother had been raped by a Tonton Macoute. For 10 points, name this author whose books The Farming of Bones, Krik? Krak!, and Breath, Eyes, Memory contend with the violent history of her native Haiti.
ANSWER: Edwidge Danticat
<AG, Long Fiction>

This novel's first sequel opens with a story in which a "brown ant" avoids the web of a spider it "had known for eons." That sequel to this novel describes the formation of a "mosquito fleet" and follows four men chosen to participate in the "Wallbreaker Project." This novel itself describes a raid on a ship called Judgment Day, which kills the eccentric Mike Evans. After describing how Norbert Weiner dies while fighting pirates, John von Neumann makes a “human computer” for an emperor; that happens ‘cause it’s a game, and Neumann is an avatar who teaches the protagonist about a civilization that "dehydrates" itself so it can survive (*) "chaotic eras." The Dark Forest is the first sequel to this novel, which opens its author's Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy. The Trisolarans begin their invasion of Earth in this novel, whose setting shifts from the Cultural Revolution to modern Beijing. For 10 points, name this novel by Cixin Liu, the first Chinese winner of the Hugo Award.
ANSWER: The Three Body Problem [or Three Body; or San ti]
<IJ, Long Fiction>

In 2016, Maureen Freeley published her translation of a novel written in this language, about the friendship between a man studying soap manufacturing and a feminist artist, with the title Madonna in a Fur Coat. It’s not Russian, but the best known of the mid-twentieth century “village novels” written in this language ends with the title outlaw audaciously riding up to the house of his tyrannical goat-bearded landlord and shooting him dead. In a novel written in this language, the protagonist collects thousands of cigarette butts discarded by his lover, whom he had met when she (*) sold him a counterfeit handbag, as objects to be exhibited in the title location. That author who wrote in this language described a massacre at a theater that erupts into a coup d’etat in the town of Kars, where the poet Ka investigates a spate of suicides among headscarf-wearing girls. For 10 points, name this language used to write the novels Memed, My Hawk and Snow, by the authors Yasar Kemal and Orhan Pamuk.
ANSWER: Turkish [or Türkçe]
<AG, Long Fiction>

In a play written in this language, a minister gets his king to focus on a military campaign by spreading a false rumor that his queen had died in a fire. Near the end of a play in this language, the swords of two executioners miraculously fail to harm the protagonist. Traditional plays in this language were performed in either oblong, square, or triangular-shaped playhouses. An eight to twelve line benediction is recited before the stage-manager sets the scene in archetypal plays written in this language, such as one which begins with the king’s hunting (*) chariot trespassing on a holy grove. A play written in this language is titled for a minor episode in which a courtesan hands a boy some jewels to purchase a golden replacement for a little clay cart. In the best-known play written in this language, the belly of a fish is found to contain a signet ring through which a king remembers his wife, who had been cursed by a sage. For 10 points, Kalidasa wrote The Recognition of Shakuntala in what Classical Indian language?
ANSWER: Sanskrit
<AG, Drama>

A boy climbs up a walnut tree and shakes the branches to feed seven of these people while eating nothing himself. One of these people arrives at a diabetic merchant’s house just in time to stop him from beating his slave girl. A cautionary tale about a weaver who dies trying to imitate a mountebank by jumping off a high wall, is told to a man victimized by one of these people and his monkey. After a group of these people murder a man and quarter his body, a tailor is hired to stitch the pieces back together. Two of these people (*) mark a house’s front door and chip out a chunk from its front steps, but are foiled when all other houses are defaced similarly. After pouring boiling oil on several of these people hiding in jars, Morgiana performs a sword dance at a dinner so that she can plunge a dagger into the heart of their leader. These people store their treasure in a cave that opens when the words “Open Sesame” are said. For 10 points, name these criminals, forty of whom harass Ali Baba in a tale from the Arabian Nights.
ANSWER: thieves [accept word forms; accept synonyms]
<AG, Short Fiction/Miscellaneous>

Many poems from this present-day country interweave earlier poems without attribution in the “allusive variation” technique. Poets from this country collected lists of place names that they could instantly invoke to create a web of emotions and associations. Two- or three- measure punning or metaphorical introductions known as “preface phrases” open several poems from this country. Participants were divided into left and right groups, and submitted lyrics on pre-announced themes, in poetry contests from this country. An anthology whose name means Collection of (*) Ten Thousand Leaves, dating to the mid-eighth century, is this country’s oldest book of poetry. In a popular format from this country, two or more poets alternated writing up to a hundred verses. A form of poetry from this country contains a seasonal reference, a transitional “cutting word,” and seventeen morae, arranged 5-7-5. For 10 points, name this country of origin of the renga and haiku.
ANSWER: Japan [or Nippon-koku; or Nihon-koku]
<AG, Poetry>

A character in a novel by this author declines to write his proposed modern-day Don Quixote, in which a mystery novel junkie sets out to solve real crimes, because “I am not Cervantes… and I am very lazy.” In another novel by this author, a woman spends the final eighty years of her life locked in an attic with her father’s severed head. In that novel by this author, a woman ends her incestuous relationship with her father by killing him and burning down their mansion to commit suicide. The protagonist of a novel by him insults a post office worker for refusing to give him back the letter he had mailed to the estancia of (*) Hunter. In a novel by this author, a madman records his delusion that the visually impaired control the world in his “Report on the Blind.” After noticing the detail of a solitary woman at a window in a painting, Maria Iribarne is stalked and killed by the artist, Juan Pablo Castel, in this author’s short first novel. For 10 points, name this Argentine writer of the novels On Heroes and Tombs and The Tunnel.
ANSWER: Ernesto Sabato
<AG, Long Fiction>

A character in this novel warns against confusing businessmen, who buy at ten and sell at twelve, with mathematicians, who are paralyzed by the “beauty of numbers.” Patrick French’s biography of the author takes its title from this novel’s first line, which reads: “The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.” A character in this novel honors his mother, who had been a hotel maid, by forming a Madonna cult around her. For sacrilegiously collecting religious masks, the Belgian priest Father (*) Huismans is murdered in this novel’s first section. The protagonist of this novel beats his mistress Yvette, the wife of the European professor Raymond. In this novel, the commissioner Ferdinand repays the protagonist for helping him get an education by securing his release from prison and directing him aboard a steamer leaving the country. For 10 points, name this novel about Salim, a shopkeeper in an African country run by the “Big Man,” written by V.S. Naipaul.
ANSWER: A Bend in the River
<AG, Long Fiction>

At the end of a poem of this type, the poet acknowledges that the universe has rewarded him for his craft with a “marriage to the Pleiades.” Poems of this type about “of the terrible presence,” “of the unforeseen love,” “of the dark death,” and “of the dead child” were penned by Garcia Lorca. In his collections Ravishing Disunities and Call Me Ishmael Tonight, Kashmiri-born poet Agha Shahid Ali popularized this form among English-speaking poets. Traditionally, these poems range from five to fifteen strictly rhyming couplets, the last of which obliquely mentions the author. This form evolved from the panegyric qasida in (*) eighth century Arabia. The preeminent author of these poems is buried in an oft-visited tomb in Shiraz, and adopted a pen name referring to his ability to recite Quran by heart. Hafez predominantly wrote in, for 10 points, what omnipresent form in Indian, Arabic, and Persian poetry and music?
ANSWER: ghazals [or gacelas; accept answers that have the same consonants, but drop the vowels]
<AG, Poetry>

This author wrote that “the land wreathes in rhythm / with your soul, caressed by history / and cruel geography,” in his poem “Had Death Not Had Me in Tears.” For 10 points each:
[10] Name this Ghanaian author of the collection The Promise of Hope and the poetic novel This Earth My Brother, who was killed in the 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack while attending a literary festival in Nairobi.
ANSWER: Kofi Awoonor [or George Awoonor-Williams; or Kofi Nyidevu Awoonor]
[10] Awoonor was among the writers whose career was kickstarted by the pan-African literary magazine Black Orpheus, which was edited by this Nigerian playwright of Death and the King’s Horseman.
ANSWER: Wole Soyinka [or Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka]
[10] Awoonor’s collection The House by the Sea draws from this kind of experience, which also informed Soyinka’s memoir The Man Died. Ngugi wa Thiongo underwent this experience as a direct result of his play I Will Marry When I Want.
ANSWER: imprisonment [or being in jail; or detention; or incarceration; accept other synonyms]
<AG, Poetry>


In a story by this author, a craftsman designs a sofa with space for a person to crawl inside, and creepily delights in the comfort of the women who sit on him. For 10 points each:
[10] Name this author of disturbing mystery stories such as “The Human Chair” and “The Case of the Murder on D. Hill.” He rendered the name of an American author into his native language for his nom de plume.
ANSWER: Edogawa Ranpo [or Edogawa Rampo; or Taro Hirai]
[10] Many of Ranpo’s stories star the private detective Kogoro Akechi, who uses kids from the “Boy Detectives Club” to solve crimes, in an obvious nod to the Baker Street Irregulars that assist this private eye, who first appeared in A Study in Scarlet.
ANSWER: Sherlock Holmes
[10] Ranpo wrote a story in which a boy inventor traps himself in a figurative one of these places consisting of a ball lined with illuminated mirrors. In another fucked up Japanese story, Yoshihide can only finish his painting of this place after watching his daughter burn to death.
ANSWER: hell [or jigoku; accept “The Hell of Mirrors”; accept “Hell Screen”]
<AG, Short Fiction/Miscellaneous>

Bonaparte Blenkins abuses his position at one of these places until he is caught having sex with the owner’s niece, whereupon a barrel of salt meat is dropped on his head. For 10 points each:
[10] Identify this sort of location, where a corpse of a black man turns up at the start of Nadine Gordimer’s The Conservationist. A pioneering feminist, postcolonial novel by Olive Schreiner is set at one of these places.
ANSWER: a South African farm
[10] James Jarvis, the owner of a massive farm overlooking the village of Ndotsheni, forgives Absalom Kumalo for killing his son Arthur, in this South African author’s novel Cry, the Beloved Country.
ANSWER: Alan Paton
[10] Circumstances such as the return of his shell-shocked son Louis from the Border War in Angola compel Martin Mynhardt to sell their family’s drought-stricken farm, in this Booker-shortlisted English-language novel by Andre Brink.
ANSWER: Rumours of Rain
<AG, Long Fiction>


Blank verse was introduced to poetry in this language by the author of The Saga of Meghnad’s Killing, a poet who changed his name to “Michael” after marrying an Englishwoman. For 10 points each:
[10] Name this Asian language which underwent a literary renaissance during nineteenth and early twentieth century. A poet who wrote in this language, named Nazrul [nuz-“RULE”], declared that “I am a burning volcano in the bosom of the earth” in his fiery political poem “The Rebel.”
ANSWER: Bengali [or Bangla]
[10] The dean of Bengali letters is this polymath and author of Gitanjali, who renounced his knighthood in protest of the Amritsar massacre.
ANSWER: Rabindranath Tagore [or Rabindranath Thakur; or Gurudev]
[10] This ethnically Bengali poet, nicknamed the “nightingale of India” for her politically-conscious poetry, collected her exclusively-English language verse in volumes such as The Golden Threshold. She also served as the first female Indian governor and second female president of the Congress party.
ANSWER: Sarojini Naidu [or Sarojini Chattopadhyay]
<AG, Poetry>

In this play, a physician tries to smuggle the title character out of the imperial palace in his medicine chest, but is discovered by General Han Jue, who compassionately allows him to pass. For 10 points each:
[10] Name this play by Yuan dynasty dramatist Ji Junxiang, whose title character avenges the mass slaughter of his family at the hands of General Tu’an Gu. This was the first Chinese play to be translated into a European language.
ANSWER: The Orphan of Zhao [or Zhaoshi gu’er]
[10] The Orphan of Zhao belongs to the zaju genre of variety theater, which today is mainly performed as this art form. Performers of the “Peking” type of this art form wear colorful costumes, are trained in dance, combat, and pantomime, and don’t always sing, unlike their western counterparts.
ANSWER: Chinese opera [or xiqu]
[10] In a Yuan-era zaju play by Li Qianfu, Hai-tang proves her parentage of Shoulang by refusing to pull him out of one of these constructs. In a modern adaptation of that play, Azdak determines Grusha to be the true mother of Michael by having him be placed inside one of these things on a courtroom floor.
ANSWER: a chalk circle [or huilan ji; or kreidekreis; prompt on circle by asking: “made of what?”]
<AG, Drama>

The narrator frequents a pet shop filled with animals terrified of the sniper fire and street battles going on outside, in Ghada Samman’s novel titled for this city’s Nightmares. For 10 points each:
[10] Name this war-torn city where the shut-in septuagenarian Aaliya Saleh translates novels such as Austerlitz, in Rabih Alameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman. Hoda Barakat’s The Stone of Laughter, the first Arabic-language novel to feature a homosexual protagonist, is set in this city.
ANSWER: Beirut
[10] Lamia Ziade depicted the violence in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War in her autobiographical novel Bye Bye Babylon, which has this format. A fourteen-year old girl is sent to a boarding school in Austria to escape a similarly ruinous conflict at the end of part one of an autobiography of this type.
ANSWER: graphic novel [or comic book; the other book is Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis]
[10] This Lebanese author set his novel The Broken Wings during turn of the century Beirut, well before the civil war. He is better known for his new-agey book The Prophet.
ANSWER: Khalil Gibran [or Khalil Jubran]
<AG, Long Fiction>

A man who hallucinates being followed by these “constant, infallible” objects spreads his delusion to a young woman who goes insane and covers all of these items in her home, in a story from the collection The Maker. For 10 points each:
[10] Name these objects, a “shifting” example of which appears in the subtitle of the book being reviewed in the story “The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim.” Another story by the same author begins with its narrator crediting a discovery “to the conjunction” of one of these objects “and an encyclopedia.”
ANSWER: a mirror [or un espejo]
[10] The saying “Mirrors and copulation are abominable, for they multiply the number of mankind” propels the plot of this story, in which a secret society is revealed to have fabricated the existence of a planet where people create objects through sheer force of imagination.
ANSWER: “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”
[10] Mirrors are a recurring symbol of existential horror in the corpus of this blind Argentine author, who printed the story “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” in his collection Ficciones.
ANSWER: Jorge Luis Borges [or Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo]
<AG, Short Fiction/Miscellaneous>

I believe this to be the correct amount of sustainable world lit material for a tournament of this difficulty. I probably should have written an additional African literature tossup, and I'm sorry for not having done so. I think what happened is that I placed additional emphasis on Arabic literature (a thoroughly neglected tradition in quizbowl) while not realizing that I was sapping away from the neighboring continent.
Last edited by Auroni on Sun Mar 05, 2017 9:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Literature

Post by gyre and gimble » Sun Mar 05, 2017 9:22 pm

vinteuil wrote:The first is what Auroni and Mike have more or less laid out—theater people exist in large numbers, just like poetry people (and "classic novel" people—bookstore space is a completely useless metric as long as the Ken Folletts and Patrick O'Brians of the world take up so much of the novel space).
I mean, I wasn't appealing to the massive numbers of Ken Follett's books for my argument. A bookstore might have 1 Shakespeare shelf and 2 other drama shelves, next to 20 or more shelves devoted to capital-L-Literature. That's roughly the ratio that I've always seen.

I also disagree with Mike that people tend to rely on the internet to read plays. Unless I'm simply unaware of a bunch of people who do this, it seems really inconvenient because plays are so much longer than poems. Without empirical evidence, the claim seems roughly equivalent to saying that lots of people read classic novels online, which I don't think is true. In addition, reading plays online is clearly unavailable as an option for works still under copyright, especially late-20th century plays (apparently the area that's been shafted by quizbowl).
vinteuil wrote:The other reason is the amount of "foundational" or "central" literature that is drama; people might not put on (or even pleasure-read) Greek/Sanskrit/old Chinese/old Japanese drama very much, but we all know how objectively important they are (I can back this up if people are desperate, but I think that's pretty self-evident). The same goes (to a lesser degree) for all the 17th-century drama—and let's not forget Mr. Shakespeare.
There's also lots of prose and poetry that fall into those "foundational" or "central" (I think you're misusing these terms, but let's run with it) categories. I don't really understand why drama should get special treatment there. Probably Greek drama, and undoubtedly Shakespeare, deserve a higher place than their contemporaries in prose and poetry. I'm not at all convinced about any other areas of drama. And note that we already do give those two things a higher place, 1) not by asking lots of questions on Greek drama, but by not asking lots of questions on Greek poetry and prose*, and 2) by asking lots of questions on Shakespeare.

I'm much more sympathetic to Auroni's argument that there is still a lot of important drama that hasn't been explored yet. Again, that's what my 1/1 Your Choice is for. You can use that to bump drama back up to 0.75/0.75, or 1/1 (though that seems excessive in any regard), or whatever. But some editors, like myself, are not particularly interested in expanding that part of the canon. Those editors can keep drama at 0.5/0.5.

*I don't even know if that's a thing.
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Re: Literature

Post by Ike » Sun Mar 05, 2017 9:52 pm

Ultimately, this does feel to me to be something that should go within "editor's discretion." In the lit I work on, I aim for three questions on poetry and plays. This effectively works out to be .75/.75 poetry per round and .75/.75 drama per a round, though I sometimes weigh poetry a bit more. Personally, I think editors should feel free to salt the distribution to their taste with the caveat that I (and others) would probably start complaining if there were fewer than .5/.5 poetry or drama questions per a round.

One other thing I would advise keeping in mind is that these categories are not rigid boundaries. The geographical distribution felt arbitrary to Auroni, and the genre distribution feels arbitrary to me too. Sometimes the best tossup is produced by mixing and matching various short stories and novels, or novels and plays. For example, I suspect that one reason why the poorly-received ~The Fifth Column~ tossup from a while ago was not edited down to Spanish Civil War was our concern that we needed to "fill the drama quota" instead of making it about the Spanish Civil War in general that clues from other stuff about Hemingway. Sometimes questions straddle boundaries - a tossup on Hamlet's soliloquies spans poetry and drama. The important thing is that when you write a tournament's literature you hit on a wide array of literary traditions.
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Re: Literature

Post by John Ketzkorn » Sun Mar 05, 2017 10:36 pm

gyre and gimble wrote:
A bookstore might have 1 Shakespeare shelf and 2 other drama shelves, next to 20 or more shelves devoted to capital-L-Literature. That's roughly the ratio that I've always seen.
While you may be right about that ratio (although I imagine the ratio is smaller than that, but I'm no expert), you can certainly fit more works of drama than entire novels into just two shelves. (My copy of the entire works of Shakespeare is a little bigger than 1.5 Infinite Jest's)

My take on this: I acted throughout all of junior high and high school, and it was the primary way I was exposed to literature when I first picked up quiz bowl. I think lowering Drama to .75/.75 or .5/.5 needs a more serious evaluation than "There are a lot more people reading books" when several people are reading and performing plays at Universities and High Schools every year in America and many people are attending these plays. While I'm not actively involved in any of the 7 different drama clubs on UIUC's campus or in the (just) one book club we have, I can easily say that there is a lot more discussion and fervor towards drama than there is novels.

Granted, I only have two data points in IMSA and UIUC, but both seem to make the case for keeping Drama at 1/1. After all, from what I've seen of the book clubs at IMSA and UIUC, they primarily seem to focus on young adult and speculative fiction which hardly covers the capital-L Literature canon. I've tried to join in on both of them, but IMSA rarely read anything but Speculative Fiction and while UIUC doesn't have this problem to nearly the same degree, it still struggles to find variety. I was however excited to hear that UIUC's book club plans on having a discussion of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.

At IMSA, the Play Reading Committee strove to have plays from different time periods that also varied in their message. Last year, we did Flowers for Algernon, Almost Maine, and The Robbers (which I won't go into why they're all very different from one another, but hopefully the point stands). UIUC's several different clubs all have their focuses into different types of drama (Shakespeare, Ancient Greek plays, Student-written, Comedies, Tragedies, One-Acts) and run plays nearly every month. Also, THEA 101 at UIUC and Modern Theater at IMSA are two of the most popular humanities courses at their respective institutes (surely, this can't be a coincidence). Essentially, people are constantly interacting with drama/theater in a ton of different ways, so I don't think it's fair to flatly state that "people interact with poetry/prose fiction more than drama" without hard data to back that up.

My main overarching point here though is to share my experience with drama and hopefully, shed more light on the fact that there is still a ton of passion for theater today (my roommate from high school constantly tells me how often he has to work for his theater clubs at Boston University and how it's ruining his GPA). I also second Auroni's point that we still have a ton of drama to explore and 1/1 isn't that demanding on writers at the higher difficulty levels. I'm also not opposed to Ike's idea of simply having a less rigid distribution that gives writer's more wiggle room and allows them to "straddle boundaries", but I personally think 1/1 still accurately reflects how many people feel about and interact with drama and is something to continue to strive for.
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Re: Literature

Post by gyre and gimble » Sun Mar 05, 2017 11:38 pm

Joker wrote:My main overarching point here though is to share my experience with drama and hopefully, shed more light on the fact that there is still a ton of passion for theater today (my roommate from high school constantly tells me how often he has to work for his theater clubs at Boston University and how it's ruining his GPA).
I don't, and never would, doubt that there are people out there who are passionate about drama. But I don't think your experience sheds much light on the general literature-reading population. As you said yourself, you are a "theater person." So obviously, in your interactions with literature, you've encountered a lot more drama than is normal for most quizbowl players.

I went to a pretty elite public high school, and sure, we had a theatre department that put on a decent number of plays every year, but for the most part it was nowhere near as big a deal as your post makes out IMSA's theatre department to be. In English classes, we read roughly one play a year (almost always Shakespeare), compared to probably 5 novels or more. I can also tell you that of my law school class of 180, I can't name a single person who regularly interacts with drama, outside of the annual parody musical that the Stanford Law Drama Society puts on once a year. But I've probably had conversations about prose literature (and to a lesser extent, poetry) with at least half the people to whom I'm close enough to have such a conversation with. I'm not saying that my experience is universalizable, but it does show that yours and mine are starkly different, and we shouldn't generalize based on either. That's why I choose to rely instead on metrics like demand (a la bookstore stock) and canon size, which leads me to:

As I mentioned above, the drama canon is much smaller than the prose and poetry canons. That means that if you have a novel, a poem, and a play, all of roughly equal importance, the play is going to come up far more often. I think that's an unfair and non-ideal result.* Then you have the corollary that every "extra" drama question eats into the space that should have gone to a prose or poetry question (in my framework, it's just prose). It's not like there's more unexplored drama out there than there is unexplored prose or poetry. You can make the argument that "there's a whole lot of X literature in Y genre that doesn't come up in quizbowl, and we should explore it," for almost any set {X,Y}.

Finally, I think you're under the mistaken assumption that 1/1 is the status quo for drama. I don't know if quizbowl has ever followed a strict genre distribution until TTIAC, but I've always thought of 1/1 drama as a hard maximum on how much drama can be in any given packet. At any rate, I don't think 1/1 drama is really a defensible position, given all of the above. (Note that the argument here is not that 1/1 is too much per se, but that there shouldn't be as much drama as there is prose or poetry.)

*By the way, this is essentially the same as the leading (and I think sound) argument for reducing the myth distribution.
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Re: Literature

Post by Auroni » Sun Mar 05, 2017 11:56 pm

gyre and gimble wrote:As you said yourself, you are a "theater person." So obviously, in your interactions with literature, you've encountered a lot more drama than is normal for most quizbowl players.
Stephen, I think the main disconnect here is that we all are thinking of "theater people" (of whom there are a sizable number) as a subcategory under the aegis of "people who enjoy literature" and are calibrating our ideas of the drama distribution within literature accordingly. You may disagree with that mental classification, but I like taking that inclusive view, because it makes it easier to maximize enjoyment/learning from my questions.
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Re: Literature

Post by gyre and gimble » Mon Mar 06, 2017 1:47 am

Auroni wrote:
gyre and gimble wrote:As you said yourself, you are a "theater person." So obviously, in your interactions with literature, you've encountered a lot more drama than is normal for most quizbowl players.
Stephen, I think the main disconnect here is that we all are thinking of "theater people" (of whom there are a sizable number) as a subcategory under the aegis of "people who enjoy literature" and are calibrating our ideas of the drama distribution within literature accordingly. You may disagree with that mental classification, but I like taking that inclusive view, because it makes it easier to maximize enjoyment/learning from my questions.
Could you clarify what you mean? I agree entirely with that classification, and I don't think anything I've said is incompatible with it. But maybe I'm just misunderstanding you.

My statement that you've quoted was intended to make this argument: "I'm a theater person!" only supports the notion that drama deserves a sizable place in the distribution; it does not prove that drama is as important as prose and poetry, and merits as large of a place in the distribution as those other two genres.

But perhaps I'm framing my entire argument the wrong way. Maybe what I'm really trying to argue is not that drama is not as important as others may think, but instead that prose fiction is way more important than the roughly 1/1-1.25/1.25 that it would be allotted if we gave 1/1 each to poetry and drama. Prose fiction absolutely dominates our collective interaction with literature, so it should have a bigger piece. My suggestion is that we take away from drama and give it to prose, because I believe drama is the smallest genre of the Big Three, and I have yet to hear compelling arguments saying otherwise.
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