This course is an introduction to literary study. It will be divided into three concerns: the first addresses the overarching question, “Why read literature?” What purpose has reading something we refer to as “literature” served, for whom has it served this purpose, and why? The second concern addresses the nature of literature itself. Simply put, what is literature? How is literature and the study of it related to various meanings of “culture,” a term which has referred to human thought and art of the highest quality and, less loftily, all of the views, beliefs, and values of a society? Although the answer to what literature is will remain inconclusive, we will nonetheless evoke the question throughout the entire quarter. At the very least, we will observe that “literature” is never restricted to a singular, conclusive meaning that remains fixed across time. Finally, the third concern addresses the question of reading literature. This is where the matter of critical practice comes in: what is the role of the literary critic? In this course, our task is to think like literary critics. To this end, we will become familiar with prominent critical practices that arise throughout the twentieth century. These include New Criticism and the practice of close reading, structuralism and approaches that addressing relationships between language and meaning, and Deconstruction. Each practice offers a distinctive way to figure out what any given piece of literature “means.” Meaning is the outcome of the critical reading practices we use to make sense of these literary texts. In short, a substantive portion of this course will be spent on thinking about various relationships between literature, critical practices, meaning, and the social world.