Helping Students Understand Literature -- Matt Robinson Joins Department of English
By: Cedric Noel, BA'13
Published: Thursday, Aug 16, 2012
Matt Robinson’s first spoken word as a child was “read” and ever since then it seems that he has done nothing but read. He recalls that his early literary bent intensified when he discovered T.S. Eliot.
“Some of my mom’s favourite poets were modernists and she would read me T.S. Eliot when I was very young. When I was 13, I took out a book by T.S. Eliot and read it. I thought that his stuff was beautiful but I didn’t understand a word of it.”
A native of Fredericton, Robinson is an alumnus of STU, attending from 1994-1998. Throughout his student years, he took several classes in poetry but it was the modernist period that captivated him.
“What I really like about modernist poetry is that it is some of the hardest to understand in the English language, so I figured if I was going to do something in English, it would be that. You can enjoy Eliot on your own, but you need help to understand him.”
Helping people understand literature is what he will now do full time as he begins a new position with the Department of English Language and Literature. After graduating from STU, Robinson earned a masters and doctorate from the University of New Brunswick. His area of academic specialty is American literature and he has published several works on Modernist American literature.
Carrying On a Strong STU Community
During his time as a student, Robinson was involved in many campus groups. He believes that the sense of community at the university is still very strong and why he still feels right at home.
“Like for a lot of people at St. Thomas, their years here are some of the best years of their lives. I felt I owed something to STU and as soon as I came back to teach I felt at home.”
Robinson has been teaching part-time for five years and he will be starting in September as a full-time professor teaching introductory courses on literature and an upper-year course on American literature. He’s excited to take advantage of the opportunities that this change will bring.
Encouraging Many Voices in the Classroom
Robinson says he’s excited at the prospect of teaching, something that has always been very natural for him.
“As a musician and a professor, I like working with an audience, I like the excitement of it. I like the fact that you produce things when a whole bunch of people are watching you. You play better solos when you have an audience and you do a lot of thinking on your feet when you’re a professor.”
He says from the first time that he taught he realized that he was walking out of every class with a better sense of what he was teaching.
“It immediately became apparent that it’s not a one-way street, it’s an interaction with students. It’s made me a better thinker,” said Robinson.
He believes that he has a particular kind of teaching style that caters to the needs of his students, whether it a big class or a small one.
“I really insist that students take as much responsibility for creating the class as I do. I prefer more voices in a classroom. My worst nightmare is delivering a lecture to a silent audience. There are forums for that but that’s not how I like my classes,” says Robinson.
“Education isn’t something you consume, it’s something you engage in.”