So, this is, at least to my idol Harold Bloom's mind, a big issue in contemporary literary criticism, and I think it may in some way have something to do with quadra values. So, it'd be great if you could say which position(s) you agree with more, and maybe explain your thoughts if you want in a post.
a. I think that a work of art is inherently a stronger or better work of art when it expresses views and moral sentiments that we know to be true. Not little stuff like the religion of the author, because that stuff doesn't matter. But things like, showing how it's good to have free speech and criticize authority, or perhaps emphasizing how focusing on money to the detriment of family, friends, and other concerns produces a worse life. Overall, authors have a responsibility to consider how their words will affect people's morality and mindset. In fact, it might be the case that all good works of art have these sorts of values (directly or indirectly) anyway.
b. I think that a work of art is not inherently a stronger or better work of art based on the moral sentiments it espouses, or at least, this is a less important factor than the question of whether it is well-written/acted/performed/whatever and the quality of the ideas or vision or perspective or thoughts? Lots of great art actually has values that I find repugnant (for instance, The Merchant of Venice, The Heart of Darkness, the Marquis de Sade's work), but I don't deny that it is great art because I disagree with its values. I think that artists don't really have a responsibility for the social, political, and moral effects of their work. I would rather read a well-written book that espouses values/teaches lessons I fundamentally disagree with than read a book that is not as well-written, but that espouses values/teaches lessons I fundamentally agree with.
a. I don't think that we should read books for the purpose of discovering a specific ethnic, gender, or other social perspective. I think we should read whatever books are the most interesting, the best written, and have the best ideas. Sure, many of the books we read as "classics" are by Dead White Males, but maybe that's because the Dead White Males wrote a lot of the best books! Of course, I'll read a book by a woman or a minority author if it's good, but when it finally comes down to it, it's more important and beneficial to have read [Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Milton, Homer, Dante insert important DWM author here] than to make sure that you read works of every different cultural perspective.
b. The books that are taught in schools and espoused by universities are all by Dead White Males. It's likely that they were only chosen to be read because they are by Dead White Males, and there's equally good work by women and minorities that was suppressed by culture that we should rediscover. Regardless, we need to make room for other voices and perspectives besides that of DWMs, even if that means reading a little bit less of [Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Milton, Homer, Dante, insert DWM author here].
a. Literature is inherently political; we cannot divorce a book from its political stances and its political consequences. Every book chosen as "important" by a culture is chosen for a reason, usually one relating to power structures and reinforcing the power of those who are doing the choosing.
b. Literature is inherently apolitical. The political stances and consequences of a given book are a comparatively minor concern. The books that have stood the test of time have stood the test of time because they are the best books.