What is literature? Why are some literary and cultural texts deemed to be exceptionally valuable? What are the best ways of reading these texts? This is the core module in English at Lancaster. It addresses fundamental questions about the status, value, and interpretation of texts, posing these questions in the context of recent debates about language, politics, gender, selfhood, culture and national identity. You will discover the major critical concepts and debates of recent years and assess their strengths and limitations as models of literary interpretation. The module will consider the ways in which critical theory has challenged traditional assumptions about literature and criticism; it will examine the debates that have opened up between different theoretical schools of thought; and it will enable you to deploy theoretical terms and concepts in your own acts of reading. Its overall aim is to make you more rigorous, sophisticated and inventive in your readings of literary and cultural texts.