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Literature (or lit for short) is a major academic subject in the quizbowl distribution. In ACF and similar distributions, literature questions typically take up about 20 percent of the questions in a given packet. Together with science and history, literature is one of the Big Three categories.

Literature questions are typically written on any/all fictional work from ancient times to the present, though philosophical dialogues and religious/mythological writings are often separated out into RMP. However, NAQT includes mythology and religious literature as subcategories of literature rather than splitting them out. The literature category is usually subdivided by culture (American, British, European, and World literature being the usual divisions) and by type of literature (prose, drama, and poetry, with prose including novels and short stories.) Questions or clues on literary criticism are also usually grouped under the literature distribution. Pop culture books (The Da Vinci Code, etc.) children's literature (Harry Potter, etc.), and sci-fi/fantasy (A Game of Thrones, Ender's Game, etc.) are generally not considered literature and are instead grouped as trash, although NAQT includes children's literature and young adult literature in its literature distribution in its high school and middle school questions.

Types of Literature Tossups


The answer in these questions is a single literary work.
The narrator of this book journeys past Saturn with an angel to show him a house where chained monkeys tear off and devour each others’ limbs and a mill containing the skeletal body of Aristotle’s Analytics. Near the end of this book, the narrator describes seeing a figure in a flame of fire who tells an angel that Jesus “was all virtue, and acted from impulse, not from rules,” causing the Angel to embrace the fire and arise as Elijah. It begins with the invocation “Rintrah roars & shakes his fires in the burden’d air; / Hungry clouds swag on the deep,” and includes a series of proverbs such as “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” This book claims “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite,” and calls Milton “a true Poet and of the Devils party without knowing it.” This satire of the works of Swedenborg identifies the first title location with passivity and the second with energy. For 10 points, name this illuminated book by William Blake which reverses orthodox conceptions of the Christian afterlife. (2011 ACF Nationals)


Author-based tossups give descriptions of a number of different works by a single author. Excessive use of biographical clues is discouraged.
This poet described a "luminary clock against the sky" proclaiming the time to be "neither wrong nor right" in one poem. His poem "The Lesson for Today" is the source of his epitaph, "I had a lover's quarrel with the world." This author of "Acquainted With the Night" wrote of how "Edensank to grief" and how "dawn goes down to day" in a poem about Nature's "hardest (*) hue to hold"and presented two possible ends of the world in his "Fire and Ice". This author of "Nothing Gold Can Stay"predicted that he'd be "telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence" in a poem about a choice made in a yellow wood. For 10 points, name this New England-based poet who wrote "The Road Not Taken" and "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening". (2012 PACE NSC)

Common Link

These types of tossups ask for a theme or element that is present in a number of different works.
This event is the subject of a "philosophical poem" by Sir Richard Blackmore. A dream in which a shepherd was commanded to sing about this event led to "Caedmon's Hymn," and it is depicted as the framing of a "vast petrific" roof in ~The Book of Urizen~. Raphael says it occurred after the expulsion of rebel angels in Book 7 of (*) ~Paradise Lost~. For 10 points--name this cosmogonic event also described in the Book of Genesis. (ICT)