The help page states that the following is "off-topic" for english.stackoverflow.com:

  • Criticism, discussion, and analysis of English literature

With Literature now gone, I think that we should allow this type of question in english.stackoverflow.com, in the same way (in the U.S.) English literature is thought to be a part of an "English" class.

  • 1
    That's because they teach you English Lit. and English Lang. in the same class. It's the same in the UK. We get two different grades for the same class, though (at GCSE). Dec 26, 2014 at 21:28
  • I still think that it's relevant to the topic at hand - English literature shapes the English language.
    – jwir3
    Dec 26, 2014 at 22:56

2 Answers 2


This strikes me as a very bad idea.

In the first place, LitCrit has always been explicitly excluded from this site's subject matter, so adding it would mean a ground-up redefinition. We have no experience answering such questions; we would have to start over from scratch, establishing entirely new canons of topicality and recruiting a cadre of competent answerers— matters which for new sites typically take a year or so of preparation and a year or so of Beta.

In the second place, LitCrit has very little to do with language as language, as it is treated here. The English language is merely the stuff out of which English literature is constructed, what Aristotle would call its 'material cause'; there is no more reason for this site to embrace English literature than to embrace English philosophy and law and religion. And although poets have managed to create some fascinating local textural [sic] effects with that language, the bones of literature are not utterances but actions.

In the third place, LitCrit is singularly unsuited to a Q&A site of the SE sort. Questions of literary analysis—at least those questions which would interest anybody competent to answer them—cannot be addressed in off-the-top-of-my-head notes of five or six hundred words. And no question of literary analysis can be conclusively answered; one of the few things that almost all critics would agree on is that literature is not once-and-for-all interpretable but infinitely reinterpretable. LitCrit is ultra vires here, not because it provokes multiple 'subjective opinions' but because it provokes multiple contradictory and competing objective opinions, all of which may be true.


(This started out as a comment in response to another.)

English literature shapes the English language.

The way language is used in literature shapes others’ use of English. But that’s Use of English; it’s not literary criticism. Ask questions about the way a certain sentence is constructed, but don't ask whether that construction is any good. SE deals in specifics.

That is, it's fine to ask about being hoist with a petard, or how to analyse a particularly complex sentence from Dickens or Joyce or even one of the Epistles in the Authorised Version: those are questions about how English is used.

The prohibition on “criticism, analysis and discussion of English literature” is supposed to stop questions on, say, the character development in Pride and Prejudice, or from Austen’s work into P.D. James’ Death comes to Pemberley. And that’s for all the reasons StoneyB gives in his excellent answer.

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