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portrait of David Ashford

David Ashford

Lecturer in English

School of Arts and Social Sciences, Department of English

Contact Information


Visit David Ashford

ALG03, College Building

Postal Address

City, University of London
Northampton Square
United Kingdom



David started as a lecturer at City University London in 2016, and is teaching on the new BA in English at the Centre for Literary Studies. He previously worked for seven years at the University of Surrey, where he helped to launch the new Department of English and a publically-oriented poetry impact project, which saw acclaimed poets come from around the world to perform their work in Guildford. David is a graduate of the University of York, having studied both a BA (Hons) in English and Related Literature and an MA in Modern Literature and Culture there. He subsequently secured his PhD from Cambridge University (UK). David's interests are wide ranging - but include Modernism, philosophy and cultural geography. David is also a published poet, and editor of a small press called Contraband, publishing New Modernist poetry, fiction and analysis.


  1. Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP), University of Surrey, Guildford, United Kingdom, Jul 2005
  2. PhD in English, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, Oct 2004 – May 2008
  3. MA in Modern Literature and Culture, University of York, United Kingdom, Oct 2001 – Sep 2002
  4. BA (Hons) in English and Related Literature, University of York, United Kingdom, Oct 1998 – Jul 2001


  1. Lecturer in English, City, University of London, Apr 2016 – present
  2. Lecturer in English, University of Surrey, Aug 2008 – Sep 2014


Research Interests

My research specialisms include Modernism, philosophy and cultural geography. I have a monograph on the London Underground published by Liverpool University Press, a second book on Modernist philosophy forthcoming with Bloomsbury, and a third book now nearing completion on Promethean horror. I am also a published poet - with three volumes published by Veer.

Autarchies: The Invention of Selfishness

The philosophy of Ayn Rand has had a role equal or greater than that of Milton Friedman or F.A. Hayek in shaping the contemporary neo-liberal consensus. Its impact was powerful on architects of Reaganomics such as Alan Greenspan, former Director of the World Bank, and the new breed of American industrialists who developed revolutionary information technologies in Silicon Valley.

But what do we really know of Rand’s philosophy? Is her gospel of selfishness really nothing more than a reiteration of a quintessentially American “rugged individualism”? This research project argues that Rand’s philosophy can in fact be traced back to a moment, before World War I, when the work of a now-forgotten German philosopher called Max Stirner possessed an extraordinary appeal for writers and artists across Europe. The influence of Stirnerian Egoism upon that phase of intense creative innovation we now call Modernism was seminal.

The implications for our understanding of Modernism are profound - so too for our grasp of the "cultural logic of late capitalism". Autarchies presents the reader with a fresh perspective on the Modernist classics, as well as introducing less familiar art and writing only beginning to attract interest in the West. It arrives at a fresh and compelling re-evaluation of Modernism: discovering its selfish streak.

London Underground: A Cultural Geography

London Underground: A Cultural Geography charts one of the most familiar and most peculiar spaces in London, presenting a theoretical account of the evolution of an archetypal modern environment. The first to complete that slow process of estrangement from the natural topography initiated by the Industrial Revolution, the London Underground is shown to be what French anthropologist Marc Auge has termed non-lieu – a non-place, like a motorway, supermarket or airport lounge, that is compelled to interpret its relationship to the invisible landscape it traverses through the medium of signs and maps.

Surveying a wide variety of material, ranging from the Victorian triple-decker novel, to Modernist art and architecture, to Pop music and graffiti, this cultural geography suggests that the tube-network is a transitional form, linking the alienated spaces of Victorian England to the virtual spaces of our contemporary consumer-capitalism.

Recounting the history of the production of this new space, and of the struggles it has generated, this project is ultimately presenting the story of how people have attempted to make a home in the psychopathological spaces of the modern world.

The Modern Prometheus

This ongoing research project investigates the history of Promethean Horror, establishing fresh perspectives on topics relating to Modernism, Gothic Studies, the revenant, Cultural Geography, Post-Humanism, and the Turing Test.

Essays connected to this project, on the architects Berthold Lubetkin and Nicholas Hawksmoor, have appeared in The Literary London Journal and The Cambridge Quarterly. Further essays on Orcs and Alan Turing’s Imitation Game are currently under review and should be available soon.

The final project is nearing completion, and is likely to consist of the following seven chapters:

I. Stately Pleasure Domes: A Brief Introduction to the Horror of Enlightenment
II. Architects of the Occult: London’s Alternative “Gothic” Tradition
III. Orcs: Spectres of Marx in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth
IV. Gorillas in the House of Light: London Zoo and the Modernist Vanguard
V. The City of the Sun: The Insidious Appeal of the Brutalist Dystopia
VI. The Mechanical Turk: Enduring Misapprehensions Concerning AI
VII. The Midwich Cuckoo: H.R.H. Prince Charles and the Promethean Horror in Wessex

Editorial Activities

David is chief-editor of a small-press called Contraband, which publishes New Modernist poetry, fiction and criticism.

PhD Students

David welcomes applications from candidates looking to work on projects in his professed fields of expertise.


Books (5)

  1. Ashford, D. (2017). Autarchies The Invention of Selfishness. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4742-9769-1.
  2. Ashford, (2017). Sedition Machines. Veer Books. ISBN 978-1-907088-95-7.
  3. Ashford, (2015). Orcs: an epic. Veer Books. ISBN 978-1-907088-85-8.
  4. Ashford, D. (2013). London Underground A Cultural Geography. Liverpool University Press. ISBN 978-1-78138-931-7.
  5. Ashford, (2013). Xaragmata: Translations from the Pelasgian. Veer Books. ISBN 978-1-907088-53-7.

Journal articles (8)

  1. Ashford, (2017). The Mechanical Turk: Enduring Misapprehensions Concerning A.I. The Cambridge Quarterly.
  2. Ashford, (2014). The Siberia of the Mind: Egoism in the Writings of Wyndham Lewis. The Journal of Wyndham Lewis Studies, 5, pp. 112–134.
  3. Ashford, D. (2014). “A New Concept of Egoism”: The Late Modernism of Ayn Rand. Modernism/modernity, 21(4), pp. 977–995. doi:10.1353/mod.2014.0084.
  4. Ashford, (2013). The Mechanics of the Occult: London's Alternative "Gothic" Tradition. Literary London Journal, 10(2).
  5. Ashford, D. (2011). Gorillas in the House of Light. The Cambridge Quarterly, 40(3), pp. 201–223. doi:10.1093/camqtly/bfr018.
  6. Ashford, D. (2010). Blueprints for Babylon: Modernist Mapping of the London Underground 1913–1939. Modernism/modernity, 17(4), pp. 735–764. doi:10.1353/mod.2010.0047.
  7. Ashford, (2007). Hostile Symbiosis: The American Invasion of the London Underground in Theodore Dreiser's The Stoic. Symbiosis: a journal of anglo-american literary relations, 11(2), pp. 85–99.
  8. Ashford, D. (2007). Children Asleep in the Underground: The Tube Shelters of Brandt and Moore. The Cambridge Quarterly, 36(4), pp. 295–316. doi:10.1093/camqtly/bfm026.