Writing, literature, and publishing. It’s a major unique to Emerson that is the wet-dream of any Wilde-infatuated, Orwell-crushing high school kid — not unlike myself two years ago.
While Emerson is ahead of its competition in offering a major that examines all three aspects of the publishing industry, the program fails in one major respect: Writing, literature, and publishing can be more than the sum of its parts. Integrated classes that merge the practice of reading literature with the art of writing it, or any other combination of the three concentrations, would further push students to grasp the writing process in its entirety. After all, the three concentrations are reliant on one another.
That’s not to say that classes in one concentration of the WLP program are totally independent from the others. I’ve taken writing classes in which professors brought us short stories to read and literature classes with creative writing assignments. But these decisions were made by the individual instructors—not integral components built into the class structure.
Emerson should offer classes specifically created to teach students how the different components of literature work with one another. I’m imagining a creative writing class where students are given pieces to read and then asked to apply the skills they noticed the writer to their own work. Or maybe a book design class where students are required to first read the novel they will be laying out and then make their design decisions with care that they are in accordance with the content of the book.
As a double major in political communications, I have reaped the benefits of integrative classes first hand. Classes like Politics, Advocacy, and Public Opinion and Public Affairs Matrix: Media, Politics, and Advocacy are designed to teach students not just how one facet of political communication functions — but how they work in conjunction with one another.
These classes acknowledge that components like media, advocacy, and politics — just like writing, literature, and publishing — depend on one another. To be competent in a specific concentration, one needs an understanding of how said concentration functions as an organ of the larger industry within which it falls.
Some may argue that the publishing industry just isn’t integrative in “the real world.” For the most part, that’s true. Generally writers are writers, editors are editors, and designers, naturally, designers. But that’s just the thing—we’re not in the real world, we’re at Emerson. Quidditch is a real sport, body modifications are as ubiquitous as facial hair, and no one bats an eyelash when singing breaks out along Boylston. We’re pretty far from the real world.
We should take advantage of the fact that we’re students and learn things the right way while we still don’t have publishing houses’ budgets to worry about, magazine deadlines to meet, and doctoral theses to write. Yes, it’s true that individual facets of the writing industry work independently from one another — but that’s to its detriment. By learning to look at the industry as a whole now, while we’re still at school, we can prepare to bring our knowledge to the real world — and make it better for it.
If writers read more, publishing industry execs wrote more, and literature professors put their own pen to paper on occasion to write creatively and not academically, they would better understand the place of their own microcosm within the publishing industry as a whole.
Classes like these are successful in that they teach students to look at the big picture. It’s too easy at Emerson to fall into a WLP-niche. “I’m a creative non-fiction writer; I’m a magazine designer; I write books.” While this passion, enthusiasm, and drive are quintessential Emerson-student qualities, they don’t always serve in our best interest. Focus to the point of close-mindedness limits our crafts. Only by examining, studying, and understanding how writing, literature, and publishing work with one another can we learn to write with an editor in mind, read critically as a writer, and publish with a reverence to the literature we distribute.