Reply To: J. B. Priestley

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I used to teach English Literature to GCSE level and it was all about context. While this is important, on reflection I believe that the words alone on the page without any additional information should speak for themselves. Does knowing the social or autobiographical context in which the words were written help us appreciate the work? Well, yes, it can. But then we see the work framed and maybe skewed by that knowledge. However, if you can read a poem or a story and it’s a joy or poignant on some level just on its own merit, then that’s a real triumph.
In conclusion, I believe in reading fiction and poetry without knowing anything about the author or time that it was written first. Just the raw words. Then, if I am captivated by it, I might be curious enough to investigate the context further.