I find that inspiration is often gained through contact with enthusiasm, genuine expertise or entertaining ideas that signpost new journeys with a writer. The author’s concentrated focus on themes and ideas can reveal new delights, depth and a new appreciation of diversity that enables us to be more than we were before the encounter. That is the gift of a new perspective!
At the Engage Workshop it was great to be reminded that this could serve as a definition that would work in helping us to understand what makes some writers great. In our introductions it was clear that we all had personal working ideals, that we shared as very personal details of ourselves. By gathering together, we posed the question of what makes any writer great collectively, and having made a space in which to do this it will undoubtedly be a question that is returned to, reconsidered and re-evaluated; hopefully unfolding and yielding its further insights like the texts that W H Auden celebrated. Such practice teaches us about our own capacity to learn and develop.
By looking for commonality in the themes, in our initial exercise, were we acknowledging that the same thing get said in different ways? By drawing on Auden’s insight, Seamus Perry’s contribution to a fascinating panel debate certainly suggested that. But why do we crave the novelty of resetting the same issues that human’s repeatedly encounter? Perhaps because each context, each generation evolve new ears to hear stories recast? Or perhaps the need to see the images represented in the tones and tenors of the zeitgeist?
Drawing out these questions, coming together to consider the ideas, certainly reminded me how very inspiring it is to be engaged in focussed debate and exchange. We are offered the chance to become more, when we open ourselves up to seeing through new eyes. Whilst individuals are honoured, by the presence of a listening audience, do we lose some of the arrogance of ego, when we grasp that we make individual progress together in such settings or encounters?
Of course, for the majority, it is not often or always that we can leave the details of every day life, and de-camp to Oxford. But the on-line project offers a continuation of all the advantages of the live event. The beta version we reviewed promises that possibility of continued engagement with the same sources of delight in terms of expertise, enthusiasm, and entertaining delivery. We will, I think, be richly inspired by a resource that invites any one to listen to the specialist insight of focussed academics, from the comfort of their own sofa or technological link site – for as we were reminded, portable technology offers the project the possibility of real get up and go usage.
Just as the study of great writing repays the effort of coming back to it again and again, to witness how our own reading possibilities have grown, this on line resource will offer the possibility of diversity and depth whenever we choose to take its opportunity to inspire us to engage with new texts and perspectives.
Sandy Braddick is a Lecturer in English Literature at University College Yeovil.