Proposal: Literature

I recreated the Literature proposal because I would really like a place where I can answer questions about Literature online. However, I'm a little bit worried, because past attempts to create a Literature site have all failed.

Can this proposal succeed?

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    I'm asking the moderators of /r/books if it's okay for me to post a promotional link there.
    – user84544
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 0:58
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    There are not notifications for closed proposal you may want consider, putting a comment on answers at the old proposal with links to the new one. Currently this is the most effective way to ping followers of the old proposal Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 15:14
  • I've thwunked a humdinger onto the whoozit in the direction of /r/books. Hopefully it gathers at least a little interest!
    – user84544
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 0:17
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    @Emrakul the post didn't seem to get any traction -- that's a bummer. I think a meta post on a SE site might work better: the readers of /r/books probably weren't familiar with Stack Exchange.
    – user36412
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 4:56
  • I also recommend sharing this proposal with the GoodReads community!
    – Dawny33
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 6:39
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    See Why did Literature fail? Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 15:43
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    Hi, I created the old proposal. It was kinda surprising that not a lot of people decided to try it. It took off quickly at first but...I guess people didn't spread it around enough. I was going to restart it soon but I guess you beat me to it. Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 1:31

3 Answers 3


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:

  1. Symbolism of Ixion's Punishment
  2. What is the meaning of the half burning tree in the Mabinogion?
  3. 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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 sustain it.

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 Internet.

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!

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    That data dump of the old literature SE is really a goldmine. I posted 5 of those. If only a few people do that we should have quite a good collection of questions that can help define the site. It's really not that much effort.
    – YviDe
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 19:55
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    A lot of good thoughts here. I agree that focusing on the "academic" side would be helpful -- recommendations and identification questions ended up being a huge problem last time around. Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 5:25

If the old questions didn't do it, a better option is to think of new ones. If we can't think of 40 new fantastic questions for the Literature site, it really has no reason to consider moving on. After launch the expectation is several new questions per day (like 10 per day) if we can't come up with 40 questions in 365 days without mining a failed proposal, we might was well close up shop now.

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    I don't think the old proposal failed because the questions were bad. Also, after launch the expectation isn't 10 questions per day: the site will not be closed if we don't meet that arbitrary benchmark. I agree that it would be better if people came up with original questions, but there is nothing wrong with the upvoted questions on the old proposal, and most of them would make wonderful questions for a literature Q&A.
    – user36412
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 16:57
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    If you find any specific problems with some of the old questions, feel free to comment and leave downvotes. But the problem with the old literature proposal was that it didn't get enough traction, not that the questions were bad. (The problem with the old literature site was that it had turned primarily into a book recommendation site, but there are still good questions there that can be reused).
    – user36412
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 16:58
  • Also, the standards for questions in Area51 are usually lower than in the actual site: I've seen plenty of examples where a question that was upvoted on the area51 page was closed in the actual site.
    – user36412
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 17:05
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    I appreciate your comments, but you are missing the point. There is nothing "wrong" with the old highly voted questions. But there is something wrong if the best source of questions to build the site on is a closed proposal. Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 17:15

I'm hyped on this one. We only need votes and more questions, but the rest are good!

  • One thing you could do to help the proposal succeed is copy some questions from the old literature proposal and ask them on the new proposal.
    – user36412
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 1:50

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