Do you read about an author's own life if you are studying his or her works?

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readerofbooks's profile pic

readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

This is a good question. There are different opinions out there. 

Some people believe that a work has a life of its own apart from the author. Therefore, reading about the author is not really important. Moreover, those in this camp believe that we import meaning into a text anyway, because there are no objective readers in the first place. So, people in this camp may or may not read about the author. 

Since you are asking for an opinion, I do like to read about the author's life and times. I find that by doing so, I am able to understand the text more. Furthermore, I do believe that there will be invaluable insights as well. For example, knowing something about the times and life of John Steinbeck offers insights into his works, such as Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. In light of this, I recommend reading about an author's life. 

Finally, I'd like to add that it is interesting to know more about an author. 

jessarm6's profile pic

jessarm6 | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

What a great question!

I believe that reading about an author's life can give you great insight into their thoughts and experiences, all of which in some way have an impact on their writing and their view on the world. When you know where an author comes from, or the obstacles they had to overcome in their own life, you understand similar events within a text. 

Furthermore, when studying an author's set of works you would be looking for common themes within each text. Therefore, knowing more about the author can help you to identify these various themes and subjects that are often repeated. 

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