Setting: Jeopardy!, October 14, 2009

Final Jeopardy Category: Poets

Final Jeopardy Answer:

In a 1921 letter this American-born poet had “a long poem in mind… which I am wishful to finish,” and he did at 433 lines.

Two of the contestants wrote: Who is Walt Whitman?

Why we might cut those guys some slack: If a contestant’s expertise is not literature, and s/he has to play on strategy, why not turn to this American icon?  Besides being “under our bootsoles” in about 93 examples we Dr. Scanlon has posted, Whitman is a common Jeopardy! topic.  Add to that the buzz-words “American” and “long poem,” and I can see how he’s a better guess than a lot of other poets (although the cynical part of me wants to say the distinction of “American-born” should have tipped off the contestants that the poet wasn’t indisputably American.  It also seems a little wild to me that two people in the same episode can make it through all the hurdles to get on that show and not know enough about literature, a regular Jeopardy! component, to guess someone who was alive a little closer to 1921.  Of course, weeks ago, we were discussing Whitman and T. S. Eliot side-by-side, so maybe these two icons are paired together more than I realize.  And now that I’ve gotten this post off my chest, I probably need to get off my high horse.)