(4) Beethoven vs. (5) James Joyce

Tournament of Genius

(4) Ludwig van Beethoven

We'll yield the floor to the Encyclopedia Britannica on this one: "Widely regarded as the greatest composer who ever lived, Ludwig van Beethoven dominates a period of musical history as no one else before or since." Despite being famously deaf, Beethoven became the definitive figure in music's transition from the Classical era into more Romantic tendencies. So, yeah, he was pretty good.

(5) James Joyce

Joyce's mastery of language and inventiveness with new literary forms made him possibly the most critically acclaimed and influential novelist of the 20th century. Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, Dubliners, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man are all firmly entrenched in the modern canon, and although his wildly experimental tendencies make reading his work tedious, it's tough to deny that Joyce had a pretty firm grasp of human nature.

The Breakdown

Here's a tough matchup of two gents who overcame serious disabilities to crank out some brilliant work. So who do you like: the deaf composer or the wordsmith who could barely see? Nobody's ever had to lie about making it all the way through "Symphony No. 9," while we're willing to bet more than a few have fudged on the "I totally finished Ulysses" line. Beethoven, though, never managed to make you wonder, "Hmmmm"¦I wonder what a pork kidney tastes like"¦" quite the way Joyce did. Are you going to vote with your eyes or your ears?


[See the whole bracket here.]