Tuesday, January 10, 2017
The past few hours, I've been plowing through press tasks--several cover design finalizations, correcting galleys for new releases one more time before printing, and looking toward starting layouts on the first of the 2017 titles coming shortly around the bend. Perhaps it's merely the warmer weather (warmer being completely relative and it being sort of grey and windy as hell), but I've been in a good mood today, designing & editing things I'm so excited to share. I've also been thinking a bit about the classroom--how so many dgp titles and my own work are being taught and it is ever so lovely hat my words and the words I help put out into the world are being discussed and analyzed in the classroom, and maybe even moreso that tiny shoe shoved through the door of the canon and the gap that gets bigger year by year.
I was blessed with an undergrad education that was dominated by women professors, all of them committed to teaching work by other women. While there were a few male profs who were of the stodgy "established canon"--most noticeably a Survey of English Lit Prof who was a notorious asshole, an older, but kind, Shakespeare scholar, most of my few male profs were of the progressively literary variety (one even allowed me to geek out and write about Plath in a boring Expository writing class that wasn't even necessarily supposed to be literary-focused.) Instead I took classes from female professors who ere experts in Southern Women's writing, in contemporary women's novels, Jane Austen, and other women heavy decade era classes.
When I landed at DePaul in 1997, it was under similar circumstances, and while I had to take the usual span of period literature--Medieval Romances, Milton, The Romantics, Victorian Novels--I delighted in a program of electives that engaged my yearnings for women's words. My final semester, I took a course titled Writing as a Woman's Profession,which probably ranks up there as an all-time favorite classroom experience, particularly as it roughly coincided my decision to change my future plans from pursuing a teaching career, the plan when I entered grad school, and as moving toward wanting to channel all my efforts into writing, which was beginning to not suck quite so much. Of course the circumstances of the writers we studied were vastly different from my own, but it began to seem even just a little possible. Even if I had to go the dayjob route, to center one's life around the writing nonethless.
Canons and the writers typically studied and discussed in academia are a slippery lot. So many times even the dead white men rise and fade in popularity, the women and poc (if there are any) even more so. Open an anthology of writers from the 1950s and while some familiar names spring out, a million more are never spoken of again. I imagine all of us fear this, perhaps even more than never rising to prominence at all, that we will reach the top and collapse under our own weight. Sometimes I wonder about legacy's and realize that while my own work will likely fade into obscurity, hopefully some of the authors we publish will not, hopefully the press and its endeavor to spread and encourage women's voices will not.
I guess I'm also thinking that so much has changed in 20 years in the classroom, and how very cool it is that current & contemporary authors are and being taught & discussed even more now than then--when I was in my MFA Program in the early to mid-aughts, the shift was already happening and keeps happening. And how very awesome that dgp gets to be a part of that. And how lucky that 22 year old me, with her ragged backpack full of Margaret Atwood, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jean Rhys gets to be a part of making that happen.