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Literary theory's central concern is how writing and literature relate to the world. While theory is often accused of being hopelessly esoteric - and, to some, overly academic and elitist -it offers a variety of perspectives, reflections, and ruminationson why writing and literature matter. This course will explore major concepts in literary theory and ask big questions about literature's role in society. Does a work of literature have a stable meaning? Can literature challenge social norms? Are stories universal? We will discuss texts from a variety of time periods and cultures, including readings in cultural studies, Marxism, psychoanalysis, structuralism/post-structuralism, feminism, race studies, post-colonial studies, gender studies, queer theory, and all the "post-" derivations of these areas. Along with the theoretical works, we will look at a few literary texts and discuss how theory can shape what we do as readers and,especially, as writers.