This enquiry into the principles and practice of reading literature brings together insights from cognitive studies, literary theory, empirical literature studies, learning and teaching research and higher education research. Reading is conceptualised as an active process of meaning-making that is determined by subjective as well as contextual factors and guided by a sense of purpose. This sense of purpose, part of a professional and conscious approach to reading, is the central element in the model of reading that this study proposes. As well as a conceptual aim, this model also has pedagogical power and serves as the basis for a number of critical and creative exercises geared towards developing literary reading strategies and strategic reading competences in general. These activities demonstrate how the main tenets of the study can be put into practice within the context of a particular institution of higher education.