Portrait of Professor David Herd

Professor David Herd

Professor of Modern Literature


David Herd is a poet, critic and Professor of Modern Literature. He has published widely on Twentieth-Century and Contemporary Literature and for the past ten years his work has focused on the intersection between literature and human rights.

Research interests

David’s current book, Making Space for the Human: Non-Persons, Persons, Movement in the Postwar World, explores the history of the juridical non-person with particular reference to the period 1948 to 1958. Concentrating on The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Hannah Arendt, Charles Olson and Frantz Fanon, the book traces and explores the postwar discourse of non-personhood, drawing out models of thought from which a contemporary politics of human movement can learn.

Making Space for the Human builds on David’s work as an organiser of the Refugee Tales project, on which he collaborates with Anna Pincus and colleagues at the Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group. Through that work he has helped articulate the call for an end to the UK’s policy of indefinite detention. Refugee Tales makes that call by sharing the stories of people who have experienced indefinite detention. Stories are told as part of large-scale public walks and have been published in two volumes by Comma Press. Using the books as arguments for change, Refugee Tales has engaged directly with policy makers towards a change of law.

Since 2010, David’s poetry has addressed the language of the ‘hostile environment’ and in so doing has sought to create spaces in which solidarities can form. He has been invited to read his work in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, India, Italy, Poland, the USA and the UK and his collections include All Just (Carcanet 2012), Outwith (Bookthug 2012), Through (Carcanet, 2016), and Walk Song (Equipage, 2018). He is also the author of John Ashbery and American Poetry (2000), Enthusiast! Essays on Modern American Literature (2007), editor of Contemporary Olson (2015), and series editor for Palgrave of ‘Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics’ since 2017.  

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