This is a course designed for any student who wants to learn how to decipher, comprehend, discuss, evaluate, and enjoy literary texts on the intellectually challenging level of professional, critical inquiry. It is a lecture/discussion class especially well suited for those who are contemplating future study in the discipline, and for those who seek a deeper understanding of the current methodological practices and theoretical underpinnings of literary study. Course readings will generally alternate between a sampling of literary works that cover several major genres, and an equal number of relevant theoretical essays that range selectively from classical times to the present. The goal is depth and clarity rather than a superficial survey of every possible critical "school." The theoretical materials we read will shape our discussions around many of the questions critics and students of literature pursue, such as: what is literature and why does it matter?; what constitutes "textuality" and the act of "reading," and how might these concepts be applied to interpretations of non-discursive cultural productions?; how do the reader's emotional and cognitive responses to a literary text enter into constructive dialogue with the work's "plausible" or "legitimate" meanings?; what are the institutional and ideological structures that converge or conflict to endow greater cultural value to some "canonical" texts over other, more "marginalized" texts?; and what does it mean to have a "literary history"? Many of our shorter readings are philosophically and conceptually demanding. Students will be expected to come to class highly prepared and will write three or four 5-7 page essays throughout the course. There is a midterm examination, a final examination, and periodic quizzes.