8

With standalone novels, the year of publication is easy to find out. But I have found that with short stories or poems, who are always part of a collection, it can be difficult finding out when they were first published and in which collection.

As an example, most poem anthologies that I have looked at tell the name of the poem and the author, but do not disclose year of publication and the collection in which the given work was first published.

Publishing dates would most certainly impact interpretation of works. As a point in case, the German Abitur (the final exam in Germany equivalent to the A-levels) had to be retaken in some schools because the year of publication of a short story was printed wrongly on the exam sheet. (1949 instead of 1960, leading students to believe it was part of the after-war-literature Nachkriegsliteratur).

So, are requests for year of publication of works on-topic?

10

Yes.

"When was this work published" is a question about literature. Such questions may potentially be downvoted by some users if the answer is obvious ("when was 1984 published" is just too easy to find out), but I can't see any reason to declare even those off-topic. And, as you mention, there are examples where it's non-trivial to find the answer, which would be worthy additions to our site.

In fact, a question of this type has already been well-received here, which is more conclusive than any speculation on their worth: When was Charlotte Mew's "The Trees Are Down" published?

  • 1
    I believe there are publications from the English Renaissance where the date on the book itself is not reliable, although I can't remember any examples off the top of my head. – Christophe Strobbe Jan 2 '18 at 16:42

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