Is asking for references to criticism/essays/articles/etc. relating to a specific piece of literature on topic here?

I went ahead and asked such a question on the main site: Is there much critical analysis of "The Hunger Angel"?

  • literature.meta.stackexchange.com/q/534/111
    – user111
    Jun 8, 2017 at 5:13
  • "Truly necessary" sounds incredibly vague and unfalsifiable when applied to a specific case but I understand the sentiment of your answer, thanks.
    – Not_Here
    Jun 8, 2017 at 5:40
  • The other thing is that, as far as I remember, we haven't had an academic resource request question, meaning we haven't had a chance to formulate a real policy about these questions. (This is the reason why I used the admittedly vague phrase "truly necessary"). So you could try asking it on the main site and seeing what happens. Or you could ask it on chat; other community members and I are pretty good at giving recommendations.
    – user111
    Jun 8, 2017 at 5:49
  • I am formulating the question now, I am trying to phrase it in such a way that it isn't a straight "can someone help me find a critical essay on x" although I do think that is a different question than "I liked book x can someone recommend me another book" but I guess we'll see. At the very least, if this is the first such question, I am happy to help start that conversation within the community and hopefully it will resolve well and there will be a precedent set.
    – Not_Here
    Jun 8, 2017 at 5:58
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of What are the rules for resource requests? Jun 12, 2017 at 8:33
  • 1
    @Gallifreyan no, this question has an actual example of a reference request question. So if anything gets closed, it would be the other question getting closed as a duplicate of this one.
    – user111
    Jun 12, 2017 at 13:20
  • @Hamlet I don't follow your reasoning there. If someone tried to ask a recommendation question and then posted to meta asking why it was closed, we'd call that a dupe of the existing consensus on recommendation questions, not close the long-standing and much-upvoted consensus just because the new question related to an actual example.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Jun 17, 2017 at 13:46
  • @Randal'Thor the "What are the rules for resource requests" question doesn't actually have a consensus. There are two contradictory answers that have a very similar amount of votes. Neither answer gives a conclusive answer about when they should be closed and when they shouldn't. That tells me that we need more time to think about it, and that we need to base our thinking on actual questions, not just hypotheticals.
    – user111
    Jun 17, 2017 at 15:45

1 Answer 1


I'd say it depends on how specific your question is.

  1. What are some good essays/articles offering literary criticism of War and Peace?

    This would be off-topic as a recommendation question.

  2. [specific question about War and Peace - e.g. what is the symbolism of X, or does passage Y suggest Z]
    Are there any existing essays/articles which analyse this issue?

    This would be fine. You're asking about what you actually want to know, so that people can answer that question directly if they want to, but you're also asking for references to existing writings on the topic. (Another possibility would be to ask your question without explicitly requesting reading resources on the topic, but to require that answers quote from existing published commentary rather than just coming from the answerer's head.)

  3. Are there any existing essays/articles which analyse [specific issue as above]?

    This middle-of-the-road approach is one I'm not sure about. It might be closed as a recommendation question like option 1 above, or it might be treated just as kindly as option 2. You might also be accused of falling into the XY problem - what you really want to know is the answer to that specific question, but you're asking for reading resources on it rather than just asking your question - and so you might end up just editing this into version 2.

  • 1
    3 sounds like a list question to me. I'd say no. We're here to be a resource, not to point people at them.
    – Catija
    Jun 8, 2017 at 16:14
  • @Catija I'd say it depends on the specificity of the question. Asking for articles about War and Peace would simply be too broad; asking for articles specifically about one particular lesser-known passage from War and Peace might not be. Cf. this, for instance - if that question had asked for articles dedicated to a comparison between the two works, then I could have posted my comment as an answer, since there's probably only one article that specific, and such a Q&A might still have been interesting/valuable.)
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Jun 8, 2017 at 20:12
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    I guess I don't really agree with that. Until someone starts looking for the answer, there's no difference between 1 and 3... There's no way to know whether there's only one or dozens of references. People should be asking for interpretations, not for sources for interpretations... Answers can include links to various interpretations along with the answerer's own if they wish... I don't see why we should ever encourage "here's a link to a paper" as an answer.
    – Catija
    Jun 8, 2017 at 20:19
  • Oh, definitely not just a link to a paper. A properly sourced reference at least (which, unlike a link, can't go dead), and preferably a summary of the paper. But I take your point that it might be hard to tell a priori whether there's going to be one paper or a hundred on a particular topic. I did say I was unsure about option 3 :-)
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Jun 8, 2017 at 20:23

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