Byline: Dafydd Johnston
WHEN universities receive substantial funding for research projects in the humanities, it is understandable in these times of austerity that some people will ask whether this is an appropriate use of taxpayers' money.
Although the old cliche of the ivory tower bears no relation to the world of higher education today, it is only right that academics should be expected to ensure that their research will produce public benefit, so long as that benefit is not defined in crudely materialistic terms only.
Humanities research has the potential to make a real contribution to the quality of people's lives, and academics are keen to do so because such engagement can add a new dimension to their research and because public interest and appreciation can be an enormous boost to their job satisfaction.
This is particularly true in the case of research into the language and literature of Wales because researchers are helping to maintain a threatened cultural heritage.
Publication through the medium of Welsh has a clear and appreciative target audience, while English-language publication promotes understanding of that heritage within Wales and meets the growing international interest in Celtic studies.
As the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies prepares to embark on two major research projects funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, the public benefit of the new research has been essential to project planning from the outset.
The Cult of Saints in Wales is a four-year project in collaboration with the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David which aims to collect, edit and interpret all the medieval Welsh texts relating to the saints, their lives and miracles, genealogies and poems celebrating their fame.
There is considerable international interest in the saints of all the countries of medieval Europe, but the rich material from Wales remains little known because we lack reliable and accessible editions of most of the texts.
Saints have a strong contemporary appeal for a variety of reasons, as objects of traditional Catholic veneration, as spiritual inspiration, and as a focus for local history at parish level, rooted as they are in the landscape and place-names of Wales. …