Consider the following three tags:

All of these tags strike me as at best unclear and likely to be misused, at worst pointless and likely to encourage off-topic questions.

What kind of questions are these tags meant to be used for? definitely seems to be too broad and unclear, and could be put on almost anything. The other two, while they might be able to be given well-defined meanings, could still apply to probably most of the questions on the site. Furthermore, the high proportion of closed questions with these tags suggests that they aren't really inviting good content. Taking a quick look through the checklist here, I got:

  1. Maybe? and no.
  2. Yes.
  3. Maybe?
  4. No.

Let's at least define clear usage guidance for these tags, and possibly exterminate them.

  • 1
    I'm inclined toward ambivalence on literary-analysis and literary-criticism for now, even though they're hard to define. theory, on the other hand, is absolutely too broad and Must Go.
    – user80
    Feb 13, 2017 at 0:42
  • I would advocate for removing literary-analysis, because almost every question on this site could be tagged with it. The tag literary-criticism is currently being used incorrectly. I'm ambivalent about the theory tag: maybe it should be renamed to literary-theory, which is a thing academics study and should definitely have a tag.
    – user111
    Feb 13, 2017 at 2:11
  • @Hamlet ask SE to make literary-analysis one of those "intrinsic" tags, maybe?
    – muru
    Feb 13, 2017 at 2:37
  • @muru or we can just remove the tag from all questions that use it, which will make it much harder to be recreated.
    – user111
    Feb 13, 2017 at 2:59
  • @Hamlet a tag like that will keep coming back
    – muru
    Feb 13, 2017 at 3:18
  • 1
    I feel like we could just intrinsic tag "literary" as well as "literature."
    – user80
    Feb 13, 2017 at 4:03
  • I feel like these are, at best, meta-tags at the moment -- describing the type of question rather than its content. I can see the utility -- particularly while we're still figuring out site scope and tagging policies; there's use in saying "this is a question of this type" -- but I don't think these tags will serve us well over time.
    – Standback
    Feb 13, 2017 at 7:41
  • 1
    @Emrakul There might be a risk of throwing the baby out with the bathwater if we blacklist all [literary-*] tags. (Ditto for blacklisting [*-literature], of course - that would mean losing history-of-literature as well as all the language-based tags.)
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Feb 13, 2017 at 10:57
  • @Rand That's reasonable. Though frankly I'm surprised "Literature" isn't it intrinsic tagged - usually the site name is by default.
    – user80
    Feb 13, 2017 at 16:21

1 Answer 1


Going through the tags individually:

should be removed. Literary analysis just means that you're trying to figure out what the text means. At least half of the questions in this site fall under that quality.

should either be given a clearer definition or be renamed to . Theory in the context of this site refers to literary theory, which is a thing academics study and should have its own tag. We can either rename the tag to , which might be clearer. Or we could decide that the "literary" in "literary theory" is redundant in a site about literature, and keep the tag as is. Either option is fine.

is currently being misused. There are two ways to interpret the meaning of literary criticism for the purposes of tagging. The first is to use the literary-criticism tag to be about applying literary theory when conducting literary analysis. The second is to treat literary criticism as a synonym of literary analysis, and get rid of it. (See Wikipedia for more information).

I just removed from the three questions that use it because all three questions used it incorrectly. I also removed from questions because people were using it as a synonym for (which is incorrect). All that leaves is the tag. I think we should definitely have a tag for questions about literary theory. The question is: do we rename to to eliminate confusion, or keep as is?

  • I would be more willing to upvote this if you clarified your stance on literary-criticism.
    – Benjamin
    Feb 13, 2017 at 11:34
  • @Benjamin there is a range of definitions about what literary-criticism means; we can use one of those definitions. However, the way the tag is currently being used doesn't fall under any of those definitions.
    – user111
    Feb 13, 2017 at 14:42
  • 1
    (Part 1 of 2) Disagree strongly that theory should be renamed. In literary study, theory is not the same as literary theory. Briefly: literary theory, or theory of literature, takes for granted the existence of certain categories (literature vs. non-literature) and concepts (authorship, readership). For instance, you could have a psychoanalytic theory of literature. Theory, OTOH, is meta; it asks how those categories and concepts are constructed, what gives them meaning, and whether they are defensible.
    – verbose
    Feb 18, 2017 at 8:54
  • 1
    (Part 2 of 2) Theory as practiced in academia ranges over literary theory, cultural theory, critical theory, and the theory of criticism. (And yes, the last two of those terms are different.) If this is supposed to be a site for experts, then we should be cognizant of the terminology they use; theory is much more in keeping with current jargon than literary theory.
    – verbose
    Feb 18, 2017 at 9:03
  • @verbose great links, thanks, they're really helpful. Absolutely agree with everything you said.
    – user111
    Feb 18, 2017 at 22:11

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