There, Ted wrote this paragraph:
This discussion will necessarily be a bit belated--2011 was the busiest year of my career, so I missed whatever discussion surrounded this "push" toward "canonical literature." Anyway, here goes.To offer a concrete example, I wrote the lit portions for ACF Regs 2011 (and to a lesser extent HI 2010) to push the canon towards tossups on works rather than authors—specifically major works rather than tossups focusing mainly on an author’s minor works. But I also wrote them for both specialists and generalists to enjoy. Evan Adams had a similar goal with VCU Open 2011, which was another important tournament in the easy-answer “movement.” A few years later, the canonical literature paradigm has replaced the Yaphe paradigm, and I’m amused to see that people are finally writing the sort of questions I always wanted to play now that I’m semi-retired.
Presumably, what Ted means by the "Yaphe paradigm" is the fact that one kind of literature tossup I like to write is one that takes a relatively well-known author as its answer (e.g. "Henry James"), but gets there by beginning with a description of a relatively obscure work (e.g., say, "The Ivory Tower"), then proceeds to description of a relatively better-known work (e.g. "Washington Square"), then proceeds to a very famous work (e.g. "The Portrait of a Lady"). I do like to write such tossups, and I'll try to explain why in a bit. But this isn't the only kind of literature (or, mutatis mutandis, humanities) tossup I like writing. There are at least four different varieties of literature tossup I like to write:
(1) The aforementioned "author from descriptions of increasingly famous works" tossup.
(2) Tossups on "canonical" works solely from what I have referred to elsewhere as "clues from intrinsic features" of those works--I believe this is equivalent to what Ted describes as his "canonical literature paradigm," though I am open to explanation of any difference between what I write and what he advocates.
(3) Tossups on works or authors where a number of the early/middle clues are drawn from literary theory, defined as "the kind of stuff people read (=I read) in upper-level undergrad and (to a lesser extent) grad school courses."
(4) Tossups on works or authors where a number of the early/middle clues are drawn from secondary materials that are accessible to the "common reader"--so things like the New York Review of Books, or studies and biographies written for a general (non-academic) audience.
A few further points about each of these.
First, as to the "canonical" literature category (i.e., #2 above)--I value it too! For instance, here are tossups I wrote for last year's ICT:
This novel's protagonist lives at the Hotel Stentorian, where she receives advice from Mrs. Heeny. Its protagonist has her portrait done by Claud Walsingham Popple, and advances in the world after marrying Ralph Marvell. This novel centers on a family that comes to New York from the town of (*) Apex, where the protagonist met the man she eventually marries, Elmer Moffatt. For 10 points--name this 1913 novel that centers on social climber Undine Spragg, a work by Edith Wharton.
answer: The _Custom of the Country_
At the end of this work, the protagonist recognizes that he can't ask the Rojax Corporation to take him back. Its protagonist has been deceived by a theater agent named Maurice Venice, and foolishly invests his last savings in lard futures at the behest of Dr. Tamkin. Much of this work takes place at New York's Hotel (*) Gloriana. For 10 points--name this Saul Bellow novella about failed actor Tommy Wilhelm, whose title translates a phrase from an ode by Horace that urges not trusting the future.
answer: _Seize the Day_
Such episodes as "The Bagman's Story" and "The Convict's Tale" are interpolated into this novel, whose minor characters include a drowsy "fat boy" named Joe. The title character of this novel goes to prison after his landlady, Mrs. Bardell, sues him for breach of contract after mistakenly thinking he had proposed to her. Other characters include the Cockney servant (*) Sam Weller and Tracy Tupman, a member of the title character's club. For 10 points--name this novel, the first by Charles Dickens.
answer: The _Pickwick Papers_ (accept The _Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club_)
At the end of this play, one character is told that he is free to come in at 11 for his first day of work, as he will come in at 6 by the end of the week. That character makes a revelation about his Australian parentage to demonstrate that he is technically a "foundling," which makes him--even though he is a professor of (*) Greek--eligible to inherit a munitions company. For 10 points--name this play in which Adolphus Cusins loves the title officer in the Salvation Army, by George Bernard Shaw.
answer: _Major Barbara_
These are all "tossups on major works of literature whose clues solely derive from intrinsic features of those works." I like and value such tossups; I just don't value them exclusively.
Next, as to the "author from descriptions of increasingly famous works" tossup. As I suggested in the other thread, I developed a fondness for these because I felt that they embodied an aspect of my own life as a serious reader of literature--namely, my tendency to read extensively in and about any author in whom I developed an interest. To diverge into autobiography, my practice here derives from the fact that my great hero as a literary critic is Edmund Wilson, whose approach was to take an interest in a writer, read (almost literally) everything written by that author, and then write an essay considering that author's oeuvre as a whole. I've always found that Wilsonian approach immensely interesting, and it's largely shaped my thinking about this kind of question.
When writing these, I do try to distinguish between "stuff I can't expect anyone to possibly know" and "stuff I think it is possible that other people will know." For instance, speaking of Wilson himself, I wouldn't write a tossup of this sort on him (starting with, e.g., a description of "Upstate," followed by a description of "The Triple Thinkers," followed by a giveaway on "Patriotic Gore"), because even though those are all fantastic books, I wouldn't expect anyone to have read any of them. But I don't have qualms about writing the structurally similar Henry James tossup sketched out above, because I think that James is an important enough writer that it is plausible that people will be acquainted with even his minor works. (For instance, I myself took both undergrad and grad school seminars on James in which we cut very wide swathes through his corpus.) It is possible that I err--even frequently err!--in my attempts to distinguish between "this stuff is probably only known to me" and "this stuff could plausibly be known by the good lit players of today"; but I am trying to make such differentiations.
Finally, as to my categories (3) and (4)--i.e., tossups where a significant number of early/middle clues are drawn from "extrinsic" sources. I would have thought, following recent post-ICT discussions, that this is where I am held in greatest opprobrium; still, I like and would defend such questions. First, as to (3), I think it's fine to have a subset of lit questions that reward people for reading the kinds of criticism that one reads in English classes--these are my humanities equivalent of the "science questions should only reward people who have taken actual college-level science classes" movement, though I only allow myself a small fraction of such questions, and I only allow myself to use such clues as early/middle clues before modulating to more generally accessible stuff. Second, as to (4), I think it's fine and proper to reward people whose reading life includes things like the NYRB, New Yorker, or similar general-audience texts--i.e., texts that are not encountered in coursework, but which might be read by anyone who takes an interest in a given work or author.
In the spirit of the remarks made about advocating for question styles in the other thread, I should make clear--if it isn't clear from what I've just written--that I'm in no way opposed to what Ted describes as the "canonical paradigm." I think questions like that are great, I write them myself (or, I try to write them--again, I am open to being told by Ted or someone else how questions like the ones cited above diverge from what he is calling the "canonical paradigm"), and I was happy to play them in my playing days. In addition, however, I also enjoy writing (and enjoyed playing on) questions from the other categories briefly described above, which is why I also continue to include them in the spectrum of tossups I write for high-level NAQT sets.