Although growing up in Soviet Union we were made to memorize poems by Pushkin, Lermontov, Onegin, read Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, we weren’t taught anything about them — they were sort of worshipered, like dusty icons on a shelf, not like blood & bones humans they were. I had to learn about them on the streets, like everyone else. That Pushkin died ridiculously young because he was a womanizer in a duel — what a waste! Or that my mother hates Dostoyevsky because he makes her nearly suicidal with his own depressive writing, & that he had many mental health issues, including (but not limited to) hypographia. Now, I may have hypographia (an uncontrollable impulse to write), but most of the writing I will produce will be rubbish. In D.’s case, it was brilliant.
So, yeah, I completely agree with you. Independent research is vital when it comes to classic writers, to make them come alive, because they were human beings, not robots, not ideals, & certainly not perfect, but their works live on because the works they created resonated & resonates still as the characters are the people you recognize as your next door neighbors & yourself, feeling & thinking things we are all feeling & thinking.
PS. Except Shakespeare! I will never believe that we need to read Willie the Shake! He wrote plays! He wrote movies for the masses! Check them out from the library starting Emma Thompson & Kenneth Branough (sp?), see them on Netflix, at your local high school or college play. As an English teacher, I feel very passionate about this!