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Urmila Seshagiri

Associate Professor


Urmila Seshagiri specializes in twentieth-century modernism. Her research areas include the English novel, postcolonial and transnational literature and culture, feminist studies, and contemporary fiction. The author of Race and the Modernist Imagination (Cornell, 2010), Professor Seshagiri is also the author of articles and reviews in PMLA, Modernism/modernity, Contemporary Literature, Cultural Critique, Modern Fiction Studies, Woolf Studies Annual, and The Journal of Asian American Studies. She is the Out of the Archives editor for Feminist Modernist Studies, and a contributor to the Los Angeles Review of Books and Public Books.

Professor Seshagiri 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. She is also preparing the first scholarly edition of Virginia Woolf’s memoir A Sketch of the Past (to be published by Cornell University Press); the project has received a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend, an American Philosophical Society Franklin Grant, and a Smith College Mortimer Fellowship. Her research has also been supported by fellowships and grants from the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, the National Humanities Center, and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. She is the recipient of the Modern Fiction Studies Margaret Church Award for her work on Virginia Woolf. At the University of Tennessee, she has been a Provost’s Faculty Fellow and has received, among other awards, Chancellor’s Awards for Research and Professional Development.

Professor Seshagiri teaches undergraduate courses on modernism, postcolonial literature and cinema, metropolitan literature, international fiction, women writers, and Asian American literature. Her graduate courses include research seminars on modernism and modernity, postcolonial theory, and the English novel in the 20th century; she also teaches seminars organized around themes such as the contemporary Bildungsroman or on individual authors such as Virginia Woolf and J.M. Coetzee. Professor Seshagiri’s graduate students work on a wide range of topics: the London avant-garde, Bloomsbury modernism, literary monstrosity, immigrant narratives, and post-apartheid South African fiction.

In 2015, Urmila Seshagiri 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

Contact Information

  • 314 McClung Tower
  • Phone: (865) 974-8002
  • Fax: (865) 974-6926
  • E-mail:

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