Literary arts hubs cite difficulty balancing requirements, small class sizes

While Emily Tom ’25 knew she wanted to study literary arts when she entered Brown, she found that constraints within the department made it difficult to pursue a concentration in literary arts. Ultimately, to ensure she could complete the required classes with small class sizes, Tom declared her literary arts concentration more than a year earlier than college. requires.

According to Brown University Bulletin, literary arts concentrators must take ten courses, including four creative writing workshops and six courses in reading and literary research. Of these ten courses, six must be taken directly by the Department of Literary Arts.

Within the department, introductory and intermediate creative writing workshops have a maximum enrollment of 17 students, and advanced workshops are capped at 12, Gale Nelson, academic program director and senior lecturer in literary arts, wrote. in an email to The Herald. Some base registration on a example of written expression.

“There are, I believe, six to seven places reserved in each class of 17 for lit arts hubs, which means that almost half of those places go to people who have already declared,” Tom said. . “So it would be a lot easier if I could just declare my concentration now in first year and then know that I can get into the courses I need to meet my concentration requirements.”

“If I got to Brown indecisive and in my freshman or sophomore year decided I wanted to do something in the enlightened arts, it would be a lot harder,” she added. “I don’t know anyone in another concentration who had to declare (early) because they feel like if they don’t they won’t be able to access the lessons they need.”

Some literary arts hubs told the Herald that mandating classes with enrollment caps has led to uncertainty during shopping time, when students interested in taking literary arts workshops have to wait to find out if they have been accepted into certain classes. Even if refused, many continue to take classes for the rest of the shopping period in the hope that a place becomes available.

“The shopping period is somewhat overwhelming and inconsistent,” Olivia Booth ’24 wrote in an email to the Herald. “Not everyone who wants to take the classes, especially the workshops, ends up being able to take them because they’re not…taken off the waitlist until weeks into the semester, when a lot of time and work have gone into other courses.”

“It’s difficult to schedule enlightened art classes and coordinate other classes because for the vast majority (literary arts classes) you don’t know whether or not you’ll be able to fit in until relatively well in the semester, while almost every other department is on an earlier schedule,” Booth added.

Marielle Buxbaum ’24 said she found it surprisingly easy to enroll in a freshman literary arts course during the summer 2021 semester, when freshmen made up the majority on campus. But in the ensuing fall, Buxbaum encountered more difficulty, enrolling in just one literary arts class, which she didn’t want to take because it was taught virtually.

“I planned to be a hub of enlightened arts and drama, but I was taking acting classes and other classes, but not literary arts. So I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to finish in time,” Buxbaum said. “This semester, I’m in a literary arts class, but I wasn’t sure if I would get in and I was really like, ‘Okay, at this point, if I don’t get into the one of the literary arts classes, I really, so I’m just going to drop the concentration.”

Booth wrote that because the Literary Arts Department is “super lenient” with which courses meet reading and research requirements, she had few reservations about completing her concentration.

“There are a lot of cross-course credits, so you can take English and Comparative Literature classes while earning credits for the Literary Arts concentration,” Tom said. But throughout her first semester, Tom noted that she didn’t know which classes could count for concentration, which worried her.

Booth recalled feeling similarly anxious during her freshman year in college. “I was really nervous about being able to do enough workshops to complete the concentration.”

Booth, Buxbaum and Tom all suggested that the University increase opportunities for students to enroll in creative writing workshops within the department.

“I think it’s better for the (workshops) to be small because you can get better guidance from professors and you can have more time for each student to share their work,” Buxbaum said. But “I think there should be more classes and more sections of each class.”

Nelson wrote that the ministry is already taking steps to increase the number of workshops offered. “This year we were able to offer five additional introductory workshops – split between poetry, fiction and digital/interdisciplinary (fields) – and two additional mid-level workshops on special topics,” he wrote. .

The department is offering 18 introductory-level workshops this year, “none of which require a writing sample,” as well as 19 intermediate and advanced workshops, “six of which allow concentrators to enroll without a writing sample.” , he added.

Despite the challenges, Tom encouraged all students to explore the courses in the Literary Arts Department. “It’s a really great experience for everyone, no matter your focus,” she said. “So if there’s a way to make it more accessible, not just to concentrators, but to all students, that would be really cool.”

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Nelson advises those wishing to try literary arts workshops “to take a methodical and open-ended approach.”

“Enter as many (course enrollment) lotteries as you can,” Nelson said. “Last year we added sections after the registration period ended, so the lotteries for those sections were filled” after the initial registration was held.

“The more widely you apply,” he added, “the more likely you are to end up on a class list.”

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