Professor Matthew Jarvis: Welsh Writing, Devolved Voices, and Lego Expert
After a number of years in a primary childcare role, Professor Jarvis returned to academia more fully in 2012. He has shown research leadership by opening up the field of literature and environment studies in a contemporary Welsh context; he has authored and edited a number of publications on Anglophone Welsh poets; he instigated the Leverhulme-funded ‘Devolved Voices’ project (alongside another LSW Fellow, Professor Peter Barry); and he was named Aberystwyth University’s 2018 lecturer of the year.
Asked to name his proudest achievement, he said: “I hope I’ve been a good dad. As part of which, honourable mention might go to expertise in Lego and becoming a dab hand at Minecraft…But if you want something more scholarly, I think it would have to be my 2018 Lecturer of the Year Award at Aberystwyth University (matthew-jarvis.co.uk/news/abersucelebrates-lecturer-of-the-year) – because that’s something that came from the students themselves.” He went on to tell us, “I hope to be remembered for teaching – for helping people develop and enrich their intellectual lives…if I’ve helped any of my students develop how they think, or how they respond critically and thoughtfully to the things they read or see and to the life that confronts them day-by-day – well, that’s the best way of all to be remembered, irrespective of whether anyone specifically remembers my name.”
As well as influencing his students, Professor Jarvis has provided consultations, activities, and materials for the Welsh Books Council, Literature Wales, Poetry Wales, the Education Department of the Welsh Government, Academi Gymreig, and the Association for Welsh Writing in English (which he co-chairs).
He is also the lead editor of the International Journal of Welsh Writing in English; Chair of the Poetry Wales Committee; and serves on advisory bodies of the National Library of Wales and MoNC (Modernist Network Cymru).
As Anthony Dyson Fellow in Poetry at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and Professorial Fellow in Literature and Place at Aberystwyth University, Professor Jarvis’s work is mainly concerned with Wales Studies. His research specialisms are Welsh poetry in English since the 1960s, environmental approaches to literature, and the poetic construction of space and place. In his words, he is “interested in how English-language poetry in Wales has developed since the 1960s [and…] in examining how literature creates ideas about specific places and landscapes – particularly Welsh places and landscapes”.
From 2012-2015 Professor Jarvis’s involvement with the ‘Devolved Voices’ project sought to answer the question ‘what has happened in the English-language poetic life of Wales since the devolution vote of 1997?’ In this project, he aimed to throw particular light on the work of younger and newer poets. Arising from his research for this project, Professor Jarvis edited the 2017 volume Devolutionary Readings: English-Language Poetry and Contemporary Wales. This multi-authored collection of essays explores the work of numerous poets writing in English whose literary careers have contributed significantly to poetic life in Wales since 1997.
When asked what it meant to him to be elected to the Fellowship, Professor Jarvis replied: “I was actually very moved to be made a Fellow of the Society. It really did feel like I was being told that my scholarly work mattered, that I was being welcomed into a wider community of academics, and that Wales was, in some way, genuinely happy to have me here – a lad who grew up in suburban Derby and who happened to stumble across Wales-facing scholarship almost by accident”. Having moved to Wales in the mid-90s, it was only after doing his PhD that Professor Jarvis “became fascinated by questions about the development of Welsh writing in English – particularly in terms of poetry.”
For the Learned Society of Wales, Professor Jarvis produced a 2017 report on the sector-wide health of Wales Studies. More recently, he has also reported on the implementation of the ‘Welsh dimension and international perspective’ in the new national school curriculum – a draft of which was published on 30 April. We are looking forward to continuing working with Professor Jarvis following his recent election to the Fellowship.