'Now, what I want is Facts ... Facts alone are wanted in life, ' exclaims Mr Gradgrind at the beginning of Charles Dickens' novel Hard Times.
Literature is not about facts alone, and - despite two and a half thousand years of arguments - no one can agree what it is, or how to study it.
But, argues Robert Eaglestone, it is precisely the open-ended nature of literature - that the meaning of texts and our responses to them can never be finalised - that makes it such a rewarding and socially useful subject of study.
Exploring central ideas about how to read and understand literature, Eaglestone shows that studying literature can change who you are, turning you from a 'reader' into a 'critic', someone attuned to the ways we make meaning in our world, and open to new ways of doing so.
Literature is a living conversation, he argues, which provides endless opportunities to rethink and reinterpret our world and ourselves.
With examples ranging from Sappho to Skyrim, this book shows how literature offers freer and deeper ways of thinking and being.