I recently answered this question: Did Twain mean the coin should be enlarged or not? But after answering it, I began to wonder what it actually has to do with literature. It's about a speech given by a man who happens to be most famous for writing books, but the speech itself wasn't about literature. Should such questions be on-topic?

If the answer is yes, then I fear we may be opening the floodgates to questions about anything that's ever been said by anyone who's ever written literature. Do we really want questions about, say, Winston Churchill's WW2 speeches, just because the man won a Nobel Prize for Literature?

  • We already allow questions about the personal lives of authors. The floodgates are already open.
    – user111
    Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 19:53
  • 2
    @Hamlet Consensus seems to be that "they would be on-topic, but only insofar as they relate to an author's literary life." But what about speeches, which can arguably be analysed using some of the same methods as we use for literature? Do they count?
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 19:55
  • I think it's written, ergo it's literature. ...did the poster of that question attend the speech, or did they encounter the speech in writing? Don't really have the time to write up a whole answer, though :/
    – Shokhet
    Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 21:10
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    @Shokhet Since that speech was in 1908, I'll take a wild guess and say the latter :-)
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 21:13

1 Answer 1


I think speeches should be on-topic. There are a lot of interesting analysis questions you can ask about famous speeches. (In fact, I just posted a question about speeches.)

We already have questions about comic books, questions about video games, questions about songs... Why not questions about speeches? Speeches can be analyzed in the same way that any work of literature can be. Just because speeches aren't written down doesn't mean that speeches are inferior to written books.

(My definition of literature is "anything you can apply literary criticism to." This includes oral literature.)

You mention "speeches by authors". I'm not sure how speeches by authors are any different than speeches by non-authors. In my opinion, they both are on-topic.

  • My definition of literature is "anything you can apply literary criticism to." - Does that include films and TV series? 'Cos I've got a bunch of literary-analysis-type questions about Doctor Who which probably wouldn't fit on SFF.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 21:28
  • @Randal'Thor IDK. I think this may have came up once, but I can't seem to find the meta post/chat thread. I would create a new meta post. Note that my definition is super flexible: if need be I'll just add a "this is a site about words, not moving pictures". (Although I strongly believe that oral literature should be on topic).
    – user111
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 21:42

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