At the end of the twentieth century, literary study can mean many things, just as "literature" itself is now a hotly disputed term among literary critics. Since the end of the eighteenth century, literature has usually referred to poems, plays, and narratives, "imaginative" writing that differs for most readers significantly from more factual and utilitarian writing. Our assumption in this course will be that any writing that repays readers' intense attention with special pleasure or insight can be regarded as literature. (Just what kind of pleasure or insight is peculiar to literature will be our sixty-four thousand dollar question!) This course will seek to introduce students to the techniques of informed and attentive reading involved in literary study by considering examples of imaginative writing in traditional genres and forms from the last few centuries of English and American literature. We will thus explore various critical approaches to literary study that seek to understand the historical meaning and cultural functions of literary texts, and in the process we will ponder the notion of literature itself. We will read poems from the Norton Anthology of Poetry, Shakespeare's Othello, Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, Conrad's Lord Jim, Burroughs's Tarzan of the Apes, and Nabokov's Lolita. There will also be a bulkpack of theoretical and critical essays. Three papers (5-7 pages) and a final exam.