What makes a work of literature? How does literature impact the world? How is literature shaped by the world? How does literature move? Literary criticism and theory provides the means for addressing these questions about the production and productivity of literature. This course supplies an introduction to the foremost concepts, questions, and practices of literary criticism while challenging the widely held notion that criticism is without use. The course readings and writing assignments focus on four key areas of literary critical inquiry: writers, readers, texts, and publics. In addition to encountering several approaches to each key area, students will consider the ways that these varied theories and methods are in conversation with other works of literature and literary criticism. Finally, like any good work of literary theory, the course troubles and rebuilds anew the foundation it was built upon. This means that students must question the privileged history of literary criticism and its institutions, as well as the stakes of certain defenses of criticism’s categorical boundaries. Readings include essays and excerpts by Butler, Derrida, Morrison, Marx, Sedgwick, and Foucault, among others. Written assignments require students to summarize difficult readings with clarity and concision, make arguments that are supported by forms of textual evidence, and read literature through a number of perspectives.