Ooligan Press

The Publishing Program and English Studies at Portland State University

The Publishing Program at PSU resides in the Department of English for good reasons. While the work of publishers and authors may be in any language and may be published in a multitude of forms, our goal is to prepare students for careers and studies in the broad community of the printed word in English. Our department has goals that reflect our commitment to an education that prepares students for a literate, productive, and enlightened citizenship.

“English may be approached as a means of persuasion, as an aesthetic medium, and as a cultural process.” That sentence from our Refiguring English document aptly summarizes the work of our department. It also hits the nail on the head in describing publishing.

Publishing is inherently interdisciplinary, a quality that connects it intimately with broader English Studies. Publishing students, largely drawn from work in literature, writing, and the arts, are encouraged to take advantage of the marvelous expertise of our entire English Department faculty. We have integrated our strengths in literary studies and the teaching of writing with a range of interdisciplinary approaches, a vital combination for advancing the university’s mission to serve a wider urban community in Portland.

The Publishing Program supports the broad study of literature, rhetoric, composition, critical theory, linguistics, creative writing, and other forms of writing. Along with opportunities for students to pursue these areas through elective courses, we actively apply such studies to the work of Ooligan Press. Through considerations of the texts we select for publication, as well as the classroom studies of the publishing process, students are trained in intertextual and cross-disciplinary methods of inquiry that are directed toward many cultures and historical periods. The department teaches critical approaches to texts that enable student to interpret them, to historicize them, to ask what cultural and rhetorical work they do, to appreciate their artistry and poetics, to write them with fluency and care, and, finally, to publish them with sensitivity and respect for the authors, the works, and the readers.

Publishing is both art and craft. It always exists in historical and cultural contexts that we can study and know. Its practices exist along a continuum from one-of-a-kind objects of art to the most crassly commercial, mass-marketed books. We want our students to take into the real world an understanding of context and historicity, along with the highest standards of excellence and ethical responsibility in their future careers, wherever they may be. Publishing professionals find themselves in the position of working contextually and critically with the art of others, and we may either enhance that art with our own or diminish its impact, if we fail. The relationship is in many ways similar to that of an orchestra conductor or a film producer or director. While we may make art of our own; we more often make art (or not) with the art of others, in collaboration with them.

Education ought to make us more conscious of ourselves and the world. At the same time that we learn to publish books—those incredible artifacts of our human experience, no matter their form—we need to reflect on how we do it. In so many ways, the decisions we make determine the texts that become part of the evolving canon of English literature. This is not a responsibility to take lightly. A text generally comes to us as an uncut gem. There are nearly infinite ways to cut it, to reveal its facets. By studying the gems that have been finished and polished, we can bring to our own work a wide range of perspectives and skills, both analytic and artistic. The opportunities to hone the tools necessary for that reflection, and for cleaving the facets of those gems, are available to you through the rich range of courses offered in English Studies and Creative Writing.