“Myth,” “novel,” “epic,” “thriller,” “romantic comedy”—why do people bother making these distinctions between types of narratives, and how do we make them? From defining self (“I’m a sci-fi geek”) to organizing society (“only kids read comic books”), genres help us make sense of what we read and perform artistic, social, personal, and commercial functions. In this class we will closely examine stories representing a wide range of Western genres--an ancient epic, fairy tales and folktales, a Shakespearean tragedy, a novel, a novella, a short story, one modern 3-act play (a comedy), television shows, a classic Hollywood film, an "art" film, a video game "narrative," a graphic novel, perhaps even narrative painting and photography. In addition to helping us consider genre in relation to authorial intention and reader response, our survey will enable us to address contemporary questions about readership, fan fiction, and interactivity. When and why do we find it necessary to classify our stories into categories, and who benefits? How do genres reflect and contribute to the cultures that produce them? How do media shape genre and vice verse? How has genre constrained and inspired European and American authors? How do narrative genres prompt distinctions between fiction and truth, affect taste judgements, and shape opinion?