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Who am I and how do I relate to you?

Human beings make sense of their place in the world and the actions they take by telling stories about themselves or others. Sometimes these stories justify the status quo and sometimes they challenge it..

In the humanities, we are interested in how these narratives are constructed and the deeper meanings they carry. What do familiar and unfamiliar narratives tell us about past and present hierarchies of class, gender, race or ethnicity, or about how human beings have turned their gaze onto the Earth’s natural resources or other species?

Some stories leave strong traces, others can be carefully reconstructed, but some can be barely perceived at all. What significance should we attach to this? Join the debate.

Humanities: Enriching our understanding of human experiences, past and present.

As our place in the world shifts and evolves, our research explores the many facets of human experience, past and present. We look at what drives us in terms of culture, creativity, impulses and the many expressions that make human beings what we are.

Northumbria University is engaged in exciting research into many facets of human experience across time and space. We are especially alert to the interaction between the past and the present, which we explore from British, European and Global perspectives, be they national, imperial or diasporic, Anglophone or non-Anglophone. Across the disciplines of Art History, American Studies, Creative Writing, English Language and Linguistics, English Literature, History and Media Studies, we are interested in political formation and identity; cultures of memory, commemoration and heritage; impulses towards settlement and diaspora; forms of artistic and creative expression; and responses to natural and built environments.

Ours is an expansive and outward-looking notion of the humanist endeavour. It is interdisciplinary, embracing emerging fields like the environmental and the medical humanities, and recognises no fundamental distinction between the University and the wider community.

Existing and emerging research agendas will help enhance our reputation for world-leading research, helping in particular to maintain Northumbria University’s ranking in the top quartile of UK universities for Research Excellence in English and History. Our researchers have attracted major funding from Research Councils UK as well as the British Academy, Leverhulme Trust and Nuffield Foundation.


Storytelling is how human beings make sense of the world around them.

Shared across time and space by every culture, storytelling entertains, educates and instils and preserves moral values.

But storytelling can also help us answer the most fundamental questions of all. Who am I? How do I relate to you? What does it mean to be human?

Exploring story narratives from the past and present and looking at the deeper meanings they carry can help us begin to understand what makes us what we are. 

Researchers within the humanities department at Northumbria University are interested in examining familiar and unfamiliar narratives to see what they can tell us about past and present hierarchies of class, gender, race or ethnicity. Our cutting edge research also looks at why human beings have turned their current gaze onto the Earth’s natural resources and other species.

Studying critical questions around our existence couldn’t be more relevant. After all, by learning how humans live in the world, how this makes us into the kind of people we are and ultimately questioning conventions around what makes us who we are, surely we can learn how to create a better world for everyone to live in today.

What do you think? Share your views using #ChangingChallengingWorld

Prof Ian Davidson

Professor Modern & Contemporary Literature

Department: Humanities


I work across the fields of English Literature, American Literature and Creative Writing. I studied at undergraduate and postgraduate level at the University of Essex, before completing my PhD on the relationship between spatial theory and contemporary poetry at Aberystwyth University. After teaching for a while at Aberystwyth I joined the School of English at Bangor University where I became Senior Lecturer in English before leaving to become Reader in English at Northumbria in 2011, and then Professor in 2013. I have taught and contributed to a range of English and Creative Writing undergraduate modules, including third year options in Experimental Writing, The Short Story and Modern American Poetry. I am Director of Research for the Humanities.

I regularly publish through monographs and journal articles on space and mobility in modern and contemporary poetry and fiction, and have edited essay collections and special issues of journals.  As well as a literature critic I am also a practicing poet. I have published four full length collections of poetry and a number of shorter chapbooks and pamphlet, and my work has appeared in magazines and journals in the UK, USA, Canada and Australia and in translation in Italy, Latvia and Slovakia. I co-edited the magazine Skald for some years, the pamphlet series Gratton Street Irregulars and was poetry editor for the journal English.

Get in touch: / 0191 243 7802



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