For me the take-away from the two day Engage Event was where we can go with the Great Writers Inspire website from here. We have six months left on the project (unless any eccentric billionaires feel like funding us for longer), so we can’t do everything; but getting feedback from real teachers gave us a better sense of what we do need to do.
Naturally we’re going to furiously expand content. For example, this week I’m working on adapting some of Abigail Williams’ old lectures on Aphra Behn and Jonathan Swift. But there’s a finite number of authors and resources we have time to add, so maybe it’s time we start thinking about new angles.
It seems that what our workshop attendees most want is ways of making connections, whether across themes, across authors, across works. After all, no great writer exists in isolation, any more than one person exists in isolation (we’ll tactfully overlook J. D. Salinger for the moment). Even while writing Walden, Thoreau came down from his cabin and popped to the pub most nights.
I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that the group who came down to Oxford last week wanted connections. After all, they were all students and teachers of literature, and what is literature about if not connections between human beings? That was certainly the common thread when discussing our favourite books in the introduction to the workshop.
We started out creating a resource aimed at independent learners, and now it’s become a resource we also must tailor toward teachers of secondary school and university. It’s not just a compendium or resources: it’s a spider web, spinning threads between authors and ideas. So thanks to the workshop, as we progress, it seems we must take our cue from the epigraph to E. M. Forster’s Howard’s End: