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Urmila Seshagiri UTK English

Urmila Seshagiri

Lindsay Young Professor of English
Associate Professor

317 McClung Tower


Urmila Seshagiri is Lindsay Young Professor of English and affiliate faculty in Global Studies. She is the author of Race and the Modernist Imagination (Cornell UP, 2010) and is writing a book about the complex legacy of modernist aesthetics in contemporary literature and culture, provisionally titled Still Shocking: Modernism and Fiction in the 21st Century. A Virginia Woolf scholar, Professor Seshagiri is preparing the first scholarly edition of Woolf’s memoir Sketch of the Past for Cornell UP as well as an Oxford World’s Classics centenary edition of Woolf’s 1922 novel Jacob’s Room (Oxford UP) and a Norton Library edition of To the Lighthouse (W. W. Norton & Co.). Her research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Philosophical Society, the New York Public Library, the Harry Ransom Center, the National Humanities Center, and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. At the University of Tennessee, she has been a Fellow of the UT Humanities Center. She serves as the Out of the Archives Editor for Feminist Modernist Studies, and her work appears in a range of journals and edited collections including PMLAModernism/ modernityCultural Critique, and The Oxford Handbook to Virginia Woolf. She is a contributor to Public Books and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Professor Seshagiri teaches undergraduate courses on modernism, postcolonial literature and cinema, international fiction, and women writers. Her graduate courses include research seminars on modernism and modernity, postcolonial theory, Virginia Woolf, and J.M. Coetzee. Professor Seshagiri’s graduate students work on a wide range of topics: modernism and transatlantic censorship, the London avant-garde, literary monstrosity, U.S. immigrant narratives, and post-apartheid South African fiction.

In 2020, Urmila Seshagiri received the highest teaching honor in the College of Arts and Sciences, the James R. and Nell W. Cunningham Outstanding Teaching Award. In 2015, she received a National Endowment of the Humanities Enduring Questions Grant to develop a course called “What is Duty?” for the University of Tennessee Chancellor’s Honors Program. From 2009-2011, she held the English Department’s Carroll Distinguished Teaching Chair. She is the recipient of the campus-wide Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, the College of Arts and Sciences Junior Faculty Teaching Award, the Department of English Hodges Award for Teaching Excellence, and the Graduate Students in English Outstanding Teaching Award.


  • B.A., Oberlin College
  • M.A., Ph.D., University of Illinois


Books and Scholarly Editions

  • Race and the Modernist Imagination. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 2010.
  • Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room. [1922] Introduced and Annotated for Oxford World’s Classics. Second Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2022.
  • Virginia Woolf, Sketch of the Past. [1939-41] Transcribed, Introduced, and Annotated for Cornell University Press, Ithaca. In preparation for publication in 2023.
  • Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse. [1927] Introduced and Annotated for The Norton Library. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. In preparation for publication in 2023.

Journal articles, Edited Collections, Book Chapters, and Review Essays

  • “Virginia Woolf: Family and Place.” The Oxford Handbook to Virginia Woolf. Ed. Anne Fernald. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2021. 7-26.
  •  “Language is a Place: A Conversation with Jhumpa Lahiri.” LARB: Los Angeles Review of Books. May 22, 2021.
  • “Encounters with Modernism: Ian McEwan, Jhumpa Lahiri, and the Ethics of Abstraction.” In Modernism’s Contemporary Affect, ed. David James. Modernism/modernity Print-Plus. Vol. 3, Cycle 4. December 11, 2018.
  •  “Time is a Feminist Medium: A Roundtable Conversation with Chitra Ganesh, Aditi Sriram, and Kelly Tsai.” Guest editor, moderator, and author of Introduction. A.S.A.P.| The Journal of the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present. Vol. 3. No. 1 (January 2018): 13-39.
  • “Mind the Gap! Modernism and Feminist Praxis.” Modernism/modernity: Print-Plus. Guest editor and author of Introduction. (Contributors: Rowena Kennedy-Epstein, Anne Fernald,
  • Cherene Sherrard Johnson, Madelyn Detloff, Ewa Ziarek) August 7, 2017.
  • “Wild States of Being: Domenico Starnone’s Lacci.” Public Books. July 16, 2017.
  • “Race and Modernist Form.” In Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness. Ed. Paul B. Armstrong. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2016. 424-34. Excerpted and reprinted from Race and the Modernist Imagination (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2010).
  • “Metamodernism: Narratives of Revolution and Continuity.” With David James. PMLA. Vol. 129: No. 1 (January 2014). 87-100. Reprinted in The New Modernist Studies Reader: An Anthology of Essential Criticism. Eds. Sean Latham and Gayle Rogers. London: Bloomsbury, 2021. 318-33.
  • To the Lighthouse and the Art of Race.” The Cambridge Companion to Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse. Ed. Allison Pease. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 92-109.
  •  “The Boy of La Mancha: J. M. Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus.” Contemporary Literature. Vol. 54: No. 3 (Winter 2013). 643-53.
  • “Making It New: Persephone Books and The Modernist Project.” Special Issue: Women’s Fiction, New Modernist Studies, and Feminism. Modern Fiction Studies. Vol. 59: No. 2 (Summer 2013). 241-87.