The courses offered by the department focus on the formal, aesthetic, social, cultural, and historical aspects of literature and literary production and reception. Students are encouraged to approach literature from a variety of perspectives, e.g. exploring how it represents personal and collective identity, how it dramatizes the tensions between democratic ideals and social and political practice, and how it figures the place of the United States in the world. Courses are designed to acquaint students with some of the major trends in literary history, to expose them to a variety of representational modes and forms, to offer opportunities to employ various strategies of textual analysis, and to acquaint students with some of the key concepts of literary theory.