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Here's the latest installment in the regular best-of-quarter collections, the purpose of which is to gather some particularly good Literature Q&A in order to get some easily available links to showcase our site.

One use for this post could be to gather links for promotion on Literature's community-run Twitter account. But it's also useful for any kind of site promotion - if we want to show off the site to literary friends, it'll be much easier if we have a list of particularly great posts to point to.

Please nominate some exemplary Q&A from the first quarter (Jan/Feb/Mar) of 2023.

(Also, if you find anything from previous months, feel free to go and post answers on any of the older posts linked above. The date of the meta answer doesn't matter - late entries are still more than welcome! - only the date of the post on the main site that's being nominated.)

  • When choosing nominations, please remember the primary purpose: to showcase our site to people elsewhere in the hope of maybe tempting them to come here. Let's try to focus mainly on great questions with great answers, and perhaps also great unanswered questions (which we can advertise as "hey, why not come and answer this") - not anything with subpar answers, which will tend to give a bad impression and defeat the purpose.
  • Remember that votes don't necessarily reflect quality, and the purpose of this is to promote quality over score. Highly-voted posts are easy to find, underappreciated gems less so.
  • Getting a wide range of different stories represented in our list here would also be nice, but not strictly necessary - feel free to nominate a bunch of Q&A about the same book, if you think they're all outstanding. But don't nominate questions just because they're about your favourite book.
  • Multiple nominated posts per answer here is fine.
  • Feel free to nominate either some of your own posts which you're particularly proud of, or posts from other people which really impressed you.
  • Ideally, some explanation of why the nominated questions and answers are so good would be useful - constructive feedback might give people ideas about what to aim for in the future.

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Question

Charo's very interesting question about the difference between nouvelle and conte in La Fontaine is well worth researching. Alas, I haven't yet gotten my paws on a copy of the book she links in a comment thereto.

Answers

I would like to nominate two.

First, Gareth Rees's answer to Mithical's question, What does "were with him when Divine Love first moved those fair things" mean in Dante's Inferno? The range of reference Gareth uses to support his answer is astonishing. He explains the apparent motion of the sun along the ecliptic, the relationship of that motion to the seasons, the mediæval beliefs regarding the season of creation, and the precise time of the poem's setting based on those beliefs. He tracks down an exact quote to support one of his claims—a claim that commentators have stated unsupported for seven hundred years.

Yet the answer wears its learning lightly. It is a model of clarity and completeness. It fully answers the question in every particular, but in an accessible and entirely lucid way. What is more, it took only about an hour for Gareth to answer Mith's question after it was asked. This is what Castiglione, in The Book of the Courtier, called sprezzatura.

Second, Clara Diaz Sanchez's answer to a question about the meaning of the Sinhala word "abhithiya" in Shehan Karunatilaka's Booker Prize winning The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida received a well-deserved bounty from Rand al'Thor. Her dedication and tenacity in tracking down a Sinhala speaker who could answer, in her words, "a surprisingly difficult question" were admirable.

Shameless plug alert: I was pretty darn proud of two answers I wrote about Indian poetry in English, one about Aurobindo Ghose's Savitri and the other about Nissim Ezekiel's "Philosophy", which I consider one of the greatest poems in the language. Sadly, the works aren't well-known or topical enough to garner much attention.

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Answers that impressed me by their length and depth of research into a topic:

  • Gareth Rees's answer to How did Dante know so much about geography and astronomy in his Purgatorio? which explores in detail, with evidence, three different aspects: (1) how much geographical and astronomical knowledge is actually implied in Dante's Purgatorio, (2) when that knowledge was found by European scientists, and (3) how it might have come to Dante specifically.

  • verbose's answer to What is the metrical style of Hungarian poetry? - written without any knowledge of the Hungarian language, but with deep knowledge of prosody in general and research into Hungarian poetry, yielding a long and detailed answer which makes sense to people with more knowledge of the Hungarian language.

  • verbose's answer to What does the poem "Philosophy" by Nissim Ezekiel mean? - not requiring sources but drawing on deep knowledge of a poem he had (according to a comment) first read 35 years ago.

Answers that deserve promotion for their cultural insight providing knowledge that other answerers might not have:

  • Be Brave Be Like Ukraine's answer to "What is "Galacian tobacco" and what is its significance?" Quoting myself from chat: [my answer] and MAGolding's are OK, but that's the only one based on knowledge of the text in the original language, which includes important context for answering the question correctly.

  • verbose's answer to "Meaning of "Coil of things" in "Savitri" by Sri Aurobindo", drawing on specific cultural knowledge which helps to understand this work in the context it was written.

  • Mykola's and postscripter's answers to "Were schoolteachers really paid substantially less than $45 per month in 1990s Ukraine?", consisting of (respectively) detailed personal experience and detailed statistical research into the economy of 1990s Ukraine.


This quarter saw the return of verbose (a frequently seen name in these best-of collections) after a long absence from the site. It should be no surprise that his name appears once again here.

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  • ☺️ aw gosh and golly gee, Randolph, you're always so sweet to me. I did first read Ezekiel's "Philosophy" 35 years or more ago in this anthology, but somewhere in the intervening period, which included a move across a continent or two, I've misplaced my copy 😢 . If you find one lying around unattended, lmk; it's probably mine.
    – verbose
    Commented Apr 2, 2023 at 17:28
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    But wait, how do you know that the quantitative meters answer "makes sense to people with more knowledge of the Hungarian language"?
    – verbose
    Commented Apr 4, 2023 at 19:49

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