This course combines the careful reading of a few extraordinary literary works with critical essays and discussion designed to introduce some of the basic issues in contemporary literary study. Our goal will be not only to practice reading attentively and critically, but also to explore some of the assumptions about literary texts, value, and interpretation which govern both how writers write and readers read. What is literature? How do we give it meaning? What is its function, and why does it endure, if it does? Primary texts for the course will span several genres, centuries, and geographic areas, ranging from the powerful tragedies of ancient Greece to the sparkling wit of a 17th-century Donne poem to the luminous bestselling fiction of A. S. Byatt or Michael Ondaatje.