Major Thoughts: there’s more than the ‘L’ in WLP

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While literature is a vital aspect of the major, this number of required courses is excessive for those who gravitate toward the publishing or writing side of the spectrum. / Illustration by Ally Rzesa

By Erin Wood

I chose Emerson because the writing, literature and publishing major offers a diverse curriculum with a focus on a variety of careers in the literary world. It felt like the perfect major for me—the only one I could find that would give me the option of pursuing a career in publishing while primarily studying creative writing.

I don’t regret attending Emerson, but the writing, literature and publishing program’s shortcomings—a disproportionate curriculum and a faculty lacking in diversity—lead me to doubt my preparation for a career in the writing or publishing field.

The distribution of ‘writing,’ ‘literature,’ and ‘publishing’ courses within the major needs to be revisited by the department. Many students, including myself, take issue with the vast number of required literature classes. For a typical writing, literature and publishing student who did not take the Bachelor of Fine Arts route for a creative writing or publishing concentration, the college requires a minimum of eight literature courses in comparison to only three writing courses and two publishing. While literature is a vital aspect of the major, this number of required courses is excessive for those who gravitate toward the publishing or writing side of the spectrum.

When asked the question, “Are you the ‘W,’ the ‘L,’ or the ‘P?’” in writing, literature and publishing, I have personally never heard anyone respond with “L.” However, the major’s curriculum is more favorable towards literature students. Literature classes—while teaching us a lot about writing, history, and culture—mainly prepare students for a career in academia. On the other hand, writing and publishing skills lead to staff writing positions, in-house publishing jobs, and editorial positions. As a result, I find myself concerned about how the college prepares us for the future. Students without an emphasis in creative writing or publishing can learn a lot about literature but only the basics of the other two components.

As a writing, literature and publishing major focusing primarily on creative writing, I find two introductory writing courses at the 200 level and one intermediate course at the 300 level are not enough to fully develop and explore my writing skills, especially because I don’t know what particular field of writing I want to pursue. The curriculum expects students to enter the writing, literature and publishing program knowing whether or not they lean toward fiction, nonfiction, or magazine writing. This is not the case for many students, including myself. I fulfilled all of my writing requirements by the end of the summer and still have no idea where my preference lies. Students are allowed to take as many elective courses as they want, but if a student chooses to take on one or more minors—like I did with public relations and philosophy—their schedule becomes more difficult to maneuver.

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The writing, literature and publishing program also only requires students to take two publishing courses out of six options, which is insufficient for students with a curiosity for different aspects of the publishing industry, such as editing and design. While Emerson has a publishing concentration that allows students to register for more publishing courses, it’s not ideal for students like me who are equally interested in all three aspects of the major.

Aside from my issues with the curriculum, I have also noticed a lack of diversity among the writing, literature and publishing professors. White faculty members make up about 79 percent of the department, and people of color make up only 19 percent. Diversity is not only beneficial but also essential, especially when it comes to writing. Writing acts as a powerful and universal tool with the capability to promote activism and change. Without proper exposure to and education of diverse ways of thought, we cannot properly prepare for our careers in the professional world.

Despite a student calling for diversity within the literary material taught at Emerson in a 2017 Beacon column, the matter of who’s teaching it is equally important. If we aren’t seeing diverse faces or learning about them in the classroom, we aren’t getting the most out of our education. This isn’t to say my professors haven’t been helpful—they have, and most haven’t shied away from the topic of race. However, many of my peers and I would like to see some new, additional faces and fresh points of view.

I’ve appreciated my time in the writing, literature and publishing major. However, there are obvious improvements to be made, and I am hopeful for the future of the department. With the recent introduction of the publishing concentration, it is clear that our voices have been heard, and I hope to see that even more in the future.