I do not think they are on-topic, that's why I've written "appropriate". I want to avoid a ping-pong-effect.

This topic was raised here, because of this question.

I think that question is best suited on English.SE, but that's up to them. I do not want these "edge cases" becoming homeless, because neither we nor English.SE want them. Therefore I suggest to just let them stay on this page, if English.SE already decided to kick them.

  • 1
    Now we've got Literature.SE too, where we can redirect literature questions that don't directly pertain to writing.
    – Standback
    Aug 26, 2011 at 5:23

3 Answers 3


I think literature questions can be OK if their tone is:

I am reading and analyzing these literary techniques with an eye toward adapting them in my own writing

But if it's just plain 'explain this literature to me', then no.

  • 2
    I absolutely agree with this answer, although I think it's important to note that it's not the best way to ask the question - depending on the book many in the community may not have read it. It is instead better to talk in general about techniques, quoting small portions as allowed by copyright for examples or drawing from a broad list of possible example books. Still, this would be on topic.
    – justkt
    Mar 14, 2011 at 13:08
  • @justkt: Au contraire, a major benefit of SE is that it can help answer even quite obscure questions. Perhaps not at our present scope, but that's certainly the goal.
    – Standback
    Aug 26, 2011 at 5:26

I don't think they're on-topic or appropriate for our site. If English.SE doesn't want them, I'm not sure what to do with them. Currently there's a Books.SE that's in the commitment phase, but it doesn't look like it's going forward any time soon. We're here to talk about writing, not reading or analyzing literature. I don't think defining or identifying literary devices falls into our scope.


This is interesting. To me, reading and analyzing literature is as important to improving your writing as sitting down and writing itself. While I don't want to see this site become a book club, I do think reading and writing are two sides of the same coin and are equally be valid, even without the "I'm going use it some day" clause.

We already have questions that not strictly about the writing process (aka "How do I get published?"). Are reading questions that much further off topic? I wouldn't say so.

  • 1
    I'm fine with questions about literature as they pertain to writers, but carte blanche "anything to do with literature is on-topic" seems to me to subsume the actual purpose of the site. (BTW, publishing is on-topic - see e.g. the FAQ.)
    – Standback
    Jul 4, 2011 at 11:50
  • I understand that publishing is on-topic according to the guidelines. My point is that I would say that reading is as important to writing as publishing (I would argue more important), so why is it taboo? Also, the guidelines are always up for debate (hence the meta sites). My point is just that I don't think that questions about literary technique is going to dumb down the site.
    – Joel Shea
    Jul 4, 2011 at 13:39
  • I'll try to demonstrate why I think letting literature discussions in would be problematic. Imagine I were to post three questions, asking what the central theme is in Pride and Prejudice, in Hamlet, and in Slaughterhouse Five. Would you consider those on-topic? What contribution would you say these questions contribute to us as writers - as opposed to "a conversation whose participants happen to be writers"?
    – Standback
    Jul 4, 2011 at 14:27

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