When reading sth in an academic manner, I first try to place the author, check their bios, other works, times, themes, and a long etc. Sometimes I resarch a bit more on the subject if needed. And then I read. And then I read other people's reviews and opinions, to see if what I understood is what is generally understood.
I might be a bit unsure of my reading comprehension skills.
Then, I read Kizmet's mention of Death of the Author, and resarched (of course!) till I met this opposing view:
Death of the Author
...is the birth of the reader.
Death of the Author is a concept from mid-20th Century literary criticism; it holds that an author's intentions and biographical facts (the author's politics, religion, etc) should hold no weight in determining an interpretation of their writing. This is usually understood as meaning that a writer's views about their own work are no more or less valid than the interpretations of any given reader. Intentions are one thing. What was actually accomplished might be something very different. The logic behind the concept is fairly simple: Books are meant to be read, not written, so the ways readers interpret them are as important and "real" as the author's intention. On the flip side, a lot of authors are unavailable or unwilling to comment on their intentions, and even when they are, they don't always make choices for reasons that make sense or are easily explainable to others (or sometimes even to themselves).
In the same page, this Eco quote:
A narrator should not supply interpretations of his work; otherwise he would not have written a novel, which is a machine for generating interpretations.
— Umberto Eco, postscript to The Name of the Rose
Further research, (I'm coping from Wikipedia, that is still the easiest source when properly checked) told me that:
"The Death of the Author" (French: La mort de l'auteur) is a 1967 essay by the French literary critic and theorist Roland Barthes (1915–80). Barthes' essay argues against traditional literary criticism's practice of incorporating the intentions and biographical context of an author in an interpretation of a text, and instead argues that writing and creator are unrelated. The title is a pun on Le Morte d'Arthur, a 15th-century compilation of smaller Arthurian legend stories, written by Sir Thomas Malory.
Result: I've downloaded the essay and am about to read it - it's such a departure from my own approach! It bears investigating.
Also: another proof that fanfiction is a worthwile endeavour.