What is literature and how should we read it? Why study English? This course offers an introduction to the work of major literary critics and theorists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as to debates concerning the value and purpose of literary study. We will begin with the establishment of “English” as a discipline in universities in Britain and America and attend to the historical contexts of these theories and critical practices. We will also examine the various roles that literature and the study of literature have been asked to play in society over these years. Readings may include selections by: Matthew Arnold, T.S. Eliot, I.A. Richards, Ferdinand de Saussure, Victor Shklovsky, M. M. Bakhtin, Raymond Williams, Richard Hoggart, Antonio Gramsci, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Susan Sontag, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Edward Said, Frederic Jameson, Ngugi wa Thiong’o,Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Virginia Jackson, and Franco Moretti.