The Classics Club has put up their monthly meme question:
Do you read forewords/notes that precede many classics? Does it help you or hurt you in your enjoyment/understanding of the work?
I used to always, always read the introductions to classic books. Otherwise I felt like I was cheating, like I didn’t deserve to say I’d read the book if I hadn’t slogging through the intro first. Which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy them; I especially like the ones that are written by fellow famous authors. But they inevitably spoil certain aspects of the book, and over time I’ve come to appreciate coming to a text “blind”–I don’t want to know why everyone else thinks the book is so great before I’ve read it for myself. With classics, this is not always easy to do, but skipping the introduction helps.
However, I often go back and read the introductory material once I’ve finished the book. I tend to get more out of it that way, anyway, as I can relate it to my own experience from having read the book. As a literature teacher, I especially loved reading Norton Critical Editions, because I had all the critical essays to read afterwards that helped to deepen my understanding of the text.
What about you? Do you read the “starters” or go straight to the main course?
Head over to The Classics Club to see what other members are saying.