Very early on, when I was having real doubts about the value of literary analysis – not helped by my lecturers taking that elitist cop out that if you don’t just know the value of literary analysis then you shouldn’t even bother as you’ll never know, I came across the work of Georg Lukacs. He wrote that the objective of all literary analysis is to make the work of the writer easier and better. Since I had found myself totally at sea in a world of people writing what I regarded as inane, self-glorying nonsense, like a fine novel but ultimately a failure and the beauty of the prose is only matched by the beauty of the imagination this was a lifeline and a way of finding meaning in literary analysis and criticism.

For me it wasn’t the final statement – I’ve still not got there – but it did move away from those self- important statements that seemed to find fault and little value in books that the author protested were great (another genuine paradox I encountered so often) towards understanding. Understanding the work in question, my responses to it, the context of other responses and whether it was illuminating or obscuring became the centre of my literary analysis. And for me that’s the value.