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With German literature I mean

  • Literaturepochen/-strömungen (transl. please, "Does this piece pertain to Romantisicm?")

  • German authors (e.g. their style of writing)

  • Searching for texts (e.g. "I am looking for a text which best represents Schiller's use of...", "Is there a Sonnet about death?")

This list does not represent a definition of German literature. To me, discussing the finer points of German language simply implies the above.

  • I think this question is a little vague. Yes, German literature is on-topic as it's still German. However, the question must fit to what we define as on-topic. If there's a particular phrase, for instance, in that literature, it's absolutely fine to ask for interpretation or the like. If a question is about what we think of this literature, it's not OK. – Em1 Aug 30 '14 at 6:06
  • @Em1 Questions about the meaning of single phrases are on-topic anyway (under certain circumstances). I'm reffering to questions about single phrases and the relation to their author or literary epoch. – user6191 Aug 30 '14 at 7:02
  • @Em1 but the reasoning (as i read it) that you provide as to why 'what we think questions' are off topic is incorrect. These questions are not off-topic as defined by help center, but because they are primarily opinion based. – Vogel612 Sep 8 '14 at 21:55
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As suggested by Wrzlprmft in the chat room, I am posting an answer to see if we can reach a consensus on this question.

I would consider the following types of literature-related questions as off-topic:

  • Does work X belong to epoch Y (e.g. Romanticism)? Answers to such questions would normally be based on the date, content and writing style of the work rather than on purely linguistic aspects. By writing style, I here refer to linguistic aspects that go beyond phrase-level or sentence-level aspects.
  • Do the works of author X belong to German literature? This means that the question Are the works of Kafka considered German literature? would be off-topic in spite of its 16 upvotes. This question is specifically about "sociopolitical distinction[s]" and the definition of "German literature". Making this question on-topic would require renaming the site to "German Language and Literature Stack Exchange".
  • Where can I find the text of work X?
  • Did author X really write poem Y?
  • When did author X write/publish work Y?
  • In German literature, is there a work similar to X in [English/French/Spanish/Chinese/...] literature. Example: What's the “The Anatomy of Melancholy” of German literature?, which as put on hold on 23.12.2018.
  • Is literary genre X a subset of literary genre Y? For example, Is a Krimi a subset of a Roman?. Genre definitions are literary questions, not linguistic questions.
  • Recommendations for works of literature. For example, Simple but interesting German literature. This question was preserved for historical reasons, stating that '"big list" questions are not generally allowed on German Language and Usage and will be closed per the FAQ.'

Of course, linguistic questions encountered in works of literature are on-topic. For example,

What I have tried to do here is define a dividing line between on "German" in a linguistic sense (on-topic) versus "German" in a non-linguistic sense (e.g. history of literature, sociopolitical questions) when questions somehow involve literature. Questions about lexical and grammatical issues found in works of literature are on-topic.


This is a first attempt to define a borderline between linguistic questions and (non-linguistic) literary questions. Please comment if the distinction is not sufficiently clear. And feel free to add another answer that defines a different borderline. Consensus on questions like this can only be reached through a community effort.

  • 1
    I put that question on the featured list in the hope that more people will read it and cast their votes. – Takkat Dec 26 '18 at 20:10
  • @Takkat Excellent idea! Thanks. – user800 Dec 26 '18 at 20:24
  • Can you find a criterion for on- or off-topicness that may be easily translated to future cases? (I acknowledge that this may be difficult.) – Wrzlprmft Dec 27 '18 at 12:52
  • @Wrzlprmft I added a paragraph about a "dividing line" just about the horizontal ruler. Is this clear enough? If not, we may need to refine this further in the chat. – user800 Dec 27 '18 at 13:03

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