I don't think the problem lies with the subject matter, as Literature has successfully been discussed on other Stack Exchange sites. In particular, I'm thinking about the Mythology Stack Exchange website, where people have successfully asked and answered some relatively difficult questions about literary elements in mythology. For example:
- Symbolism of Ixion's Punishment
- What is the meaning of the half burning tree in the Mabinogion?
- Why did King Kilydd conceal his son from his wife?
(These are just a few examples)
Instead, I think the problem is a lack of effort. While the last literature proposal had 89 followers, it also only had 45 example questions (many of which were downvoted and/or closed). In order for a proposal to succeed, it needs 40 questions that have 10 or more upvotes. Therefore, I would encourage everyone to ask five example questions. If you don't have time to create an original example question, you can copy questions from the old literature proposal or from the old literature site (which was closed back when Stack Exchange had different standards about site activity).
And of course, I would also encourage everyone to promote this site on other Stack Exchange sites, on other online communities, and among people whom you personally know.
Let's make this proposal a success!
EDIT: In response to questions I have received about the closure of the formal literature site, I'm going to briefly discuss why that site was closed. In my opinion, the site was closed for three reasons:
As I stated, earlier, the old literature site was closed back when Stack Exchange had different standards for about site activity for beta sites. Obviously, those standards no longer apply to beta sites, and if this proposal eventually reached the private beta phase it wouldn't be in danger of being shut down for that reason.
The second reason why the old literature site wasn't successful was that it had turned into a site dedicated to book recommendations. People weren't asking questions about literature; they were asking questions along the line of "could you recommend a book that I would enjoy to me." This problem could easily be avoided in the new site: we would just have to be proactive about closing book recommendation questions.
Looking at the data dump of the old literature site's meta section, I got the impression that people were confused about the scope of the site. It wasn't clear whether the site was supposed to be a book recommendation site, a site for literary analysis, or a site to answer basic plot points in works of literature. I don't think that this proposal should be a book recommendation site -- there are other proposals for that -- but I do think it could be successful as a combination of the second and the third topics.
I am worried that there don't seem to be very many literary analysis questions on the area51 page, and since Stack Exchange originated as a programming site, I'm not sure if this proposal will attract many teachers/scholars of literature who have the expertise necessary to answer those questions. However, it certainly is worth a try.
I've asked and answered many literary analysis type questions on Mythology.SE, and I would be willing to ask and answer such questions on a literature site if it was created. The question that remains is whether others would be willing (and have the expertise necessary) to do the same. I think it's worth a shot.
As I mentioned earlier, I disagree with the assertion, made by some people, that questions about literature ill suited to the Stack Exchange format. Previously in this answer, I gave examples of questions asked and answered on Stack Exchange's mythology website about relatively complex literary elements in mythology. I think these examples show that even complex literary analysis questions can be successful on Stack Exchange.
I think that these issues can be avoided with diligence and hard work.
In case anyone is interested, here is the meta post that the SE staff made when shutting down the old literature proposal:
As mentioned in the
recent blog post, I must reluctantly announce that we'll be
shutting this site down on Friday, May 4th, 2012. While a fine topic,
progress here has been slow for some time now, and it simply does not
appear that literature (in the general sense) has a strong enough
following on our network to support the site long-term:
But when a site struggles to maintain any semblance
of steady progress — when it's struggling to garner an audience, a
healthy core of experts, and a steady stream of questions — it becomes
increasingly unlikely that the site will find a core audience to
So rather than stringing you along with hope of eventual
graduation, I'd like to thank you all for the time and effort you've
put in here, and encourage you to continue pursuing your interest in
the subject - either elsewhere on Stack Exchange, or elsewhere on The
I hasten to add, this is not the end of literature as a topic of
interest on Stack Exchange: whether as a part of other sites, or as
its own site reborn in the future on Area 51, I fully expect
to open some of these questions again someday.
In the meantime, the questions and answers posted here will be made
available for download
and re-use by anyone who wants them.
Finally, if you see a question here that would make a good addition
to a different site, please flag it for moderator attention in the
next few days and suggest that it be migrated.
Many thanks to all of you who've stepped up and helped with the
migrations and final cleanup. And thanks again to everyone who has
been a part of this site!