Although English is not my first language , I like to discuss its literature. Recently my answer (in response to a question on poetic metaphor) was downvoted and it struck me that the original poster expected a certain arbitrarily precise explanation of subjective imagery.

Poetry is not a matter of mathematical logic. Interpretations of images and words that are natural based on my cultural affiliation may appear mistaken to a native White or White adjacent English speaker. I think that if only certain types of interpretations are acceptable on Literature Stack Exchange (based on a certain process of citing evidence and conventionally acceptable explanation common in Western literary criticism), then your site will be that much poorer off for it.

I would like to know the views of the moderators on this topic.

2 Answers 2


(Disclaimer: I'm a moderator here, but this answer is not an Official Moderator Team Response - it's just my personal response, and I haven't discussed with the other mods before posting it.)

As a site and community, Literature SE welcomes answers from anyone, regardless of cultural background. We try our best to be understanding of different cultures and ways of thinking, and to embrace literature from all around the world. I won't say we're perfect - our content is still biased towards English-language and other European literature, which is unsurprising given the typical userbase of Stack Exchange sites - but we do try. This isn't just an empty platitude: we have a topic challenge programme specifically designed to increase content and participation related to literature from different parts of the world, especially from non-English and non-Western cultures. (You mention "White", but I don't know what someone's skin colour has to do with culture, language, or literature.)

Another thing to bear in mind is that voting isn't personal, and a single vote doesn't mean much. Your answer currently sits at a score of -1, which means that one person found it poor enough to be worth downvoting. Whatever the site culture may be or aspire to be, we can't control every single user and their voting. Upvotes and downvotes are mostly each user's own to do with as they see fit. And certainly, the downvote wouldn't be related to what culture you come from, as nobody can even guess that from the name "user2450223".

This site (and Stack Exchange generally) expects answers to be backed up by something, whether that's a reputable source (i.e. not something like Wikipedia that random internet people can edit) or a solid rational argument. One-sentence answers are usually not well received, as it's hard for anyone without the same knowledge to judge whether they make sense or not. Remember, we don't know who you are or where you come from - even if you have real expert knowledge, a one-line answer is still a one-line answer from a random internet person, unless your knowledge is shown in backing up or explaining the answer.

Check out How can I write good interpretation or meaning answers?, a meta Q&A posted by a former mod in an attempt to give guidelines on quality posting at Literature SE. Part of it quotes from the How do I write a good answer? page in the Help Centre, but that's SE-wide and much of the meta post is Literature-specific.

  • I don't like the "guidelines" listed under literature.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/841/… - for all the reasons I mentioned above. It is too limiting. Words and metaphors have emotional value and flavours and extures that cannot be packed into neat little evidentiary boxes like that. I find your approach too "White" - White in the sense of emphasising "Objectivism" over subjective perception. But it is your site and not mine - you can do business as you like! Jan 14 at 14:47

I find it disgusting that my good faith question about the Policy position of Literature Stack Exchange has been downvoted twice. The approach that you recommend in offering interpretations of poetry (which is not objective like Mathematics) is something you will find only in the White West. As I said in my comment, the flavour of words and metaphors is often culturally coloured. To demand "evidence" and "backing" for every subjective perception defeats the purpose of Poetry.

It is also rooted in Whiteness. If you do not know what I mean by Whiteness, there are many materials from BLM explaining this phenomenon. I would like to end this thread here, given that the mentality of the authors of this site is steeped in hypocrisy - the hypocrisy of claiming to welcome others, but of course only on your own narrow terms.

Good bye.

Edit: Its been suggested I am bringing in "skin-colour". I am bringing in "Whiteness" which is a cultural phenomenon. The moderators' appeal to a certain form of analytical critique belongs to that school of culture. The only honest answer is the comment from @Mithical that states explicitly that "While yes, this is perhaps rooted in a Western style of understanding and analyzing literature, this is an English-language site and as such will be skewed towards that culture".

Yes, indeed. You should make this clear on your little claustrophobic forum. Other cultures do not approach subjective feeling and the inner worlds that poetry is supposed to express in this fashion.

I will sign off with this and not waste any more time in your company.

  • 3
    I'm sorry that you've had a poor experience so far on Literature.SE. I'd like to note that simply explaining the thought process behind your interpretation, or why certain lines evoke certain emotions, counts as evidence for the purposes of analysis. Literature is inherently a subjective topic, and Stack Exchange as a platform does not well support subjectivity. In order for the subject to work on the platform, answers suggesting "maybe this?" without expanding on the reasoning behind it are not well accepted here.
    – Mithical Mod
    Jan 14 at 16:11
  • While yes, this is perhaps rooted in a Western style of understanding and analyzing literature, this is an English-language site and as such will be skewed towards that culture. I do not, however, believe that a discussion of race is appropriate here; I don't know what you look like, and you don't know what I look like.
    – Mithical Mod
    Jan 14 at 16:15
  • 3
    I understand that you posted this meta question as a good-faith attempt to learn about the policies of Literature SE. I'd speculate that the downvotes are due to your attempts to bring skin colour into a discussion where it has no place. Although you (rightly) expect others to assume good faith on your part, you don't seem to extend the same courtesy to others, instead jumping straight to accusations of hypocrisy and implications of racism.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Jan 14 at 16:20
  • The assumption that those of us who actively read and post on this site are all white seems ill-founded to me.
    – verbose
    Feb 24 at 22:37

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