Beginning with Classical philosophers like Plato and Aristotle, we will put ongoing debates about the nature and function of literature in society into historical context, demonstrating and exploring both the continuities between critical positions and the redefinitions and paradigm shifts that continue to shape critical discussion in our time. Through the study of essays and excerpts from a range of historical periods and intellectual contexts, we will explore questions such as the following: What is the relationship between “the world” and its textual “representation?” How does the literary text work? What is the relationship between writer and text? Reader and text? What are the roles of the “poet” and the critic in civic culture? In what ways is literature ideological and what are the implications of this? This is not a lecture course; therefore, there will be a strong emphasis on class participation. All students are expected to arrive in class having read the material and prepared to engage in discussion.