On my last question, I was informed that most pure literary questions are closed. Why is that?

3 Answers 3


Two reasons.

Firstly, we hold that writing and literary analysis are two different things. They certainly have an area of overlap - mostly when you want to analyze a particular work in order to imitate its strengths - but mostly, they're pretty separate. "What is William Shakespeare's opinion on women and feminism, as seen from his work?" is a perfectly valid question in literary analysis, but it's in no way helpful in the task of writing fiction today.

Secondly, literary analysis questions tend to be open-ended and not directly answerable. Using the same example, I could posit a thesis as to Shakespeare's view of feminism, but it would be difficult to judge if my thesis were "better" or "worse" than anybody else's. The result wouldn't be Q&A; it'd be... I don't know, possibly academia :P And definitely not something that fits well into our Q&A engine. This discussion on why a previous iteration of Literature.SE failed, might help explain why we found literature questions particularly difficult to work with.

Edited to add: There is now a third reason -- Literature.SE is now an active, healthy SE site, doing very nicely indeed! So, the literary-analysis questions which are off-topic here, are on-topic and welcome there.

  • 3
    Update: Literature.SE exists again, and is doing pretty well!
    – Standback
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 9:07
  • 2
    I don't have enough rep to edit, and suggested edits aren't allowed on meta. Since this meta is directly linked from a custom close reason, please could you update your accepted answer to more explicitly point people asking such questions to the new Literature SE? Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 15:38
  • @Randal'Thor : Thanks, done!
    – Standback
    Commented Jul 4, 2019 at 4:09

Writers is a site about writing, and not about reading or literature appreciation. Excluding reading questions was discussed in the original Area 51 site definition. Community discussion pretty early on here on meta confirmed that literature questions would be off-topic. It's now pretty clearly spelled out in our help center:

On the other hand, these kinds of questions aren't allowed here:

That said, the community has agreed that questions asking about reading can sometimes be okay if the question also pertains to to writing. (In other words, questions asking "how did this writer do X, and how can I use that technique?")


This site (and other SE sites) wants to solve "problems." Specifically related to writing.

This and other SE sites are not big on "theory." So "pure literary questions" fall under this heading and get closed.

What we want here are applied literary questions relating to, or containing problems. Those are questions that the site answers.

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