David Ayers publishes mainly in the fields of modernism and critical theory. His first book, Wyndham Lewis and Western Man (1992) dealt with anti-semitism in the work of Wyndham Lewis, while his second, English Literature of the 1920s (1999) was an attempt to challenge the historiographical dominance of the paradigm of a hybrid anglo-american high modernism by tracking period themes across a range of highbrow and popular texts in Britain. Modernism: A Short Introduction (2004) introduces readers to basic elements of the process of reading classic modernist texts, and Literary Theory: A Reintroduction (2008) offers an outline of the recent history of critical theory with reference to its institutional and regional context.
His most recent monograph, Modernism, Internationalism and the Russian Revolution (2018) attempts to rectify the comparative neglect in modernist studies of the impact of the Russian Revolution and the formation of the League of Nations. This research, which was funded by a Leverhulme Fellowship, links accounts of high modernist authors to writings by journalists, politicians and soldiers in a reconstruction of the discursive frame of reference of the period. Such well-known cultural figures as Eliot, Wells and Leonard Woolf are examined alongside journalists such as Brailsford and Farbman, other modernist writers such as Gerhardie and Cournos, politicians such as Masaryk and Trotsky, and the sculptor, journalist and novelist, Clare Sheridan, the cousin of Winston Churchill who scandalously visited the Kremlin to make busts of the Bolshevik leaders.
David is very involved in the infrastructure of modernist studies, as a long-standing member of the organizing committee of the London Modernism Seminar, a member of the founding executive of the British Association for Modernist Studies (BAMS), the former international relations Chair of the Modernist Studies Association (MSA), and Chair of the European Network for Avant-garde and Modernism studies (EAM). He was organiser of the biannual conference of the EAM at Kent in 2012; jointly organised the EAM conference at Helsinki in 2014 with Marja Härmänmaa; worked with Jean-Pierre Montier to deliver the EAM conference at Rennes in 2016, and with Moritz Baβler for the 2018 conference in Münster. With Sascha Bru he edits the book series of the EAM, published by De Gruyter, which features articles on the avant-garde in all the arts, in English, French and German.
He is a member of the Arts, Art History and Literature panel of the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO) – the Flanders Research Foundation – which allocates research funding in Belgium.
At Kent, he was the founding director of the Centre for Modern Poetry in 2001. The aim of the Centre was to bring some of the quality and intensity of the research on modernist poetry to recent and contemporary poetry, which had been much less widely investigated. The Centre has become a hub for research into modern poetry, as well as for poetry writing and performance, and is a meeting point for distinguished visitors and the numerous students who work with us at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
School of English, Rutherford Extension, NC32
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David has supervised PhDs dealing with the modernist short story; Nabokov; Wyndham Lewis; David Jones; James Joyce; Poetry and Performance; Middleton Murry and Dostoevsky; Apocalyptic Fiction; Arthur Schopenhauer and Henry James; Paul Bowles and William Burroughs. He currently supervises work on Olive Garnett; Sillitoe, Burgess and Malaya; Bataille and Nabokov; Huxley and psychedelics; the NHS; Joyce Carol Oates and Nietzsche.
He is currently preparing a monograph on Utopia.