The Edifice program will create an intellectual community within an English course but across multiple semesters, aimed at affiliating junior and senior English majors with the discipline of literary scholarship and investing them in their work from a long-term perspective. Beginning in a pilot stage with a single course, EN 335 (Milton), Edifice will form a learning community of EN 335 students which will cross multiple semesters. Students will submit essays for an online publication; students in future semesters will then draw upon these published essays for their own research, writing on topics designed to relate to and build upon previous student work. They will thus contribute to future students of the course, strengthening their sense of community, while also demonstrating the strength of their writing. Students from prior semesters may also communicate with students in the current class, either formally via e-mail or class visits, or at informal social occasions, like an annual EN 335 meeting during Homecoming. As the community grows, students may participate in mini-conferences to present their research or become a campus resource for students reading Milton for other classes.

In the pilot stage, students will be creating resources for future students to draw upon. They can be brought into the learning community in part through this website, making them feel part of a professional literary research project. After some diagnostic assignments, students will write papers on directed topics designed to be of use to students in future semesters—work on the reasons for Satan’s fall in Paradise Lost one semester might be applied to a paper arguing Satan can be redeemed in a future course, for example—and students writing the best papers will be invited to expand and revise them for posting on the website, assuming they grant permission. Other students will write another paper instead of expanding and revising, which will encourage students to make the cut for the website. I anticipate the best 20% of student papers will be selected for the Edifice site; those papers will be the foundation for future student work.

While I do not expect every student to invest deeply in the Edifice community, those who do so will by definition be the most committed to maintaining their ties to the group, which in turn will encourage students in later semesters to identify themselves with this learning community. The ultimate success of the program will depend on how future classes integrate themselves into this community, but this initial group of students should feel empowered by their ability to shape it. By engaging students on social, creative, disciplinary and professional levels, the Edifice program should broaden students’ sense of themselves as scholars of literature, getting them past the level of memorizing events and character names.