We currently have a tag that as of today has 21 questions associated with it. The tag wiki excerpt says:

Questions related to the concept of "narrator" in literature, i.e. the "voice" that appears to speak or tell a story. The narrator can usually not simply be equated with the author. There are various types of narrators, e.g. the omniscient narrator and the unreliable narrator.

I would propose replacing this tag with . While "narrator" seems narrowly focused on who is telling a particular story, "point of view" is a broader concept, as it covers situations that seem unsuited for:

  • The voice or persona of lyric poetry, such as the Duke of Ferrara in Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess"
  • Narration as an aspect of drama, where there is a point of view but no explicit narrator
  • A work that has multiple narrators, such as an epistolary novel
  • A work that employs the stream of consciousness technique, which appears to give the reader access to a character's unmediated experience of the phenomenal world.

The last two examples highlights the difference of emphasis between and . The former appears to focus on the character telling the story, the latter on the technique of presentation. The term "point of view" refers to the relationship between the narrator and the narrative, or the speaker and the poem. As Burkhard Niederhoff explains in The Living Handbook of Narratology:

Perspective in narrative may be defined as the way the representation of the story is influenced by the position, personality and values of the narrator, the characters and, possibly, other, more hypothetical entities in the storyworld. The more common term in Anglo-American criticism, which will be treated as equivalent here, is “point of view.”

Here is a (very rough) draft of the tag wiki excerpt for :

Questions related to the narrator(s) or speaker(s) of a literary work. Point of view refers to the relationship between the narrator and the narrative, or the speaker and the poem. In prose fiction, it encompasses terms such as first-person narrator, omniscient narrator, etc. In lyric poetry, the corresponding terms are persona or voice. The narrator or speaker usually should not be equated with the writer.

Of the 21 questions currently tagged , nineteen can be retagged without raising any issues. The remaining two do not meet the criteria for to begin with:

To sum up: I propose that we replace with ; we retain the former tag as a synonym for the latter; and we create , , and as additional synonyms.

  • I agree with synonymising narrator to point-of-view, but I'm less sure about creating additional synonyms for tags that have never actually been used AFAIK. Especially voice since that's the sort of tag name that could easily be misused - people might start using it for any questions about opera or sung poetry, for example.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Apr 10, 2021 at 10:42
  • By the way, that mistagged Skloot question might be a victim of my recent merge of perspective to narrator, since the OP mentions "perspective" a few times and might have used that tag.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Apr 10, 2021 at 10:42
  • I'd say we should at least add persona because that's the equivalent in lyric poetry of point-of-view and we have at least two questions tagged narrator that should have persona instead, unless we switch them both to point-of-view
    – verbose
    Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 6:42

3 Answers 3


There is a potential problem I foresee with the 'Point-of-View' tag.

You are writing here as a person clearly very knowledgeable about literary terminology and versed in the minutia of the different terms (Go you!).

Some of our querents are equally scholarly, many of them are not(self included tbh). It's also very clear that even where tags have lots of information about how to use them, many of those go lamentably unread, people assume they know what things mean without checking.

I think there is a strong risk that 'Point-of-View' is likely to be interpreted as something like 'author opinion' or 'character opinion' and it would get used to tag all sorts of 'What did X author really think about Y topic?'

Perhaps the question is, if most of the existing questions under 'narrator' sit happily under 'point-of-view', are there a whole load of 'point-of-view' questions which don't fit acceptably under 'narrator' and what are they currently getting tagged with? The list you give as seeming unsuited seemed to me to mostly to be edge cases. eg I was only able to read the extract on your link on narration in drama and I wasn't convinced from that that the author was proposing 'a point of view but no explicit narrator'.

I can see that there may be a case for separating something out for Lyric poetry if that is a widely known and understood distinction, but I'm unsure of what the wider benefit of the proposed change is and think there is a possible downside in a potential increase in mis-taggings.

So to be clear, I'm not suggesting that the POV tag would be inappropriate in and of itself, but that it might produce an unintended consequence that makes more work for those dedicated souls who diligently sort out people's tags for them.


An alternative proposal.

The use of "point of view" for poetry is not entirely unknown. Nevertheless, one limitation of is that the term is much more commonly applied to prose fiction than to poetry. This is partly because, as Brian McHale says: "Contemporary narrative theory is almost silent about poetry." Partly, however, there is a resistance to applying concepts from narratology to lyric poetry. Jonathan Culler argues that "the model of prose fiction, where narrators and point of view are central ... pushes lyric in the direction of the novel by adopting a mimetic model and focusing on the speaker as character." Applying to lyric poetry thus has pitfalls.

If we wanted to avoid this, we could take up this alternative proposal: use for prose fiction or narrative poetry, and use for lyric poetry. Two questions currently tagged would need to be retagged :

The alternative proposal: retag with , keeping the former as a tag synonym; limit to narrative works; create for lyric poetry; create and as a synonym for the latter.

My personal opinion is that in practical terms, there is little difference between the sorts of discussions that terms such as persona, voice, or speaker make possible, and the discussions that take place under the term point of view. The one clearcut case where "point of view" seems inapplicable to lyric is biographical or confessional poetry, where the speaking voice is identified as the poet's. But in such cases, "persona" or "speaker" are equally inapplicable. So it's a question of whether we want to be true to the prevailing weight of scholarly tradition (in which case we would have for lyric, as distinct from for narrative), or go with the minority that uses for lyric as well.

  • I downvoted this alternative proposal (while upvoting the question) because I think this distinction is too minor to need to be built in to the tagging system. Even if there is a literary difference between the narrator of a novel and the speaker of a poem, they're both about the same type of concept and we can use the same tag for both.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Apr 15, 2021 at 14:52

This is a response to Spagirl's answer. The discussion was too long to fit in comments.

First, I strongly disagree that questions that don't fit under are edge cases! Here are a bunch of questions already on our site that could use a tag:

... and that's just from a cursory search. Two of these questions wrongly have the tag, but most don't, because the askers realize that their question is about narrative technique, not about a narrator. Some of the questions have the tag , which is inappropriate, since style has to do with choices on the level of language, not of narrative technique. Some have no tag apart from author and work. So I think these questions show we already have a use case where people are searching for the right tag to apply but, because we don't have a tag, are settling on tags that don't quite fit.

As for the possible misunderstanding of , I don't think we get too many questions of the nature "What did author X think of topic Y." More to the point, I don't believe "people might misuse the tag" is a good reason to shy away from having accurate tags. We already do have such tags that could be ambiguous, where using them precisely requires some understanding of what the tag refers to:

So our regular practice already shows that "it might be misunderstood" is not a good reason to keep away from a tag which defines something precisely. Existing questions on the site already show the need for the tag. If we're a community of literature enthusiasts, then we should use the appropriate vocabulary.

  • Should I just revise the question to incorporate this?
    – verbose
    Commented Apr 15, 2021 at 23:17

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