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Personal profile

Research interests

Dr Aakanksha J. Virkar specialises in modern literature and culture between 1870-1945 and particularly the relations between literature, philosophy, music and visual culture in this period.

Her more recent research on T. S. Eliot consider Eliot's work in interdiscplinary contexts. Her work brings to light the important relation of Schopenhauer's aesthetics and metaphysics to Eliot's poetry and suggests the influence of Schopenhauer on Eliot's formulation of the 'objective correlative', a cornerstone of twentieth-century literary criticism.

A particular research focus is Beethoven's influence on Eliot as well as other modernist writers such as Virginia Woolf. Suggesting that Eliot's understanding of Beethoven is framed by the musical aesthetics of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, her published work offers new readings of canonical literary texts.

Recent conference presentations include a talk on Eliot and Nietzsche as part of the centenary panel 'The Waste Land at 100' at the Modern Language Association annual conference, Washington DC January 2022.

In 2020, for the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth, she was an invited guest on BBC Radio 3's Composer of the Week' as part of the 'Beethoven Unleashed' series. Her contribution is available here  https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/37916tSXw7s3CRcj9FZjpyq/beethoven-unleashed-the-box-set  (Theme 10 'Spirit of the Age' and Theme 13 'Highlights')

Her earlier work on the Victorian poet G. M. Hopkins has also gained recognition, emphasising Hopkins' previously unacknowledged indebtedness to seventeenth-century visual culture. Her article on Hopkins and emblematics was ranked amongst the 50 Most Read articles published by ‘Literature and Theology’ (OUP) between 2007-2012. Her monograph The Philosophical Mysticism of Gerard Manley Hopkins (2018) is published in the Routledge Nineteenth Century Series.

Reviews of The Philosophical Mysticism of Gerard Manley Hopkins

“this is a lovely and lovingly realized book that participates in the ongoing so-called turn to religion in Victorian studies in its reassessment of Victorian mysticism and Hopkins’s place in the mystical tradition. Each of its chapters is quickpaced and tightly written, rapidly moving the reader across centuries’ worth of textual, religious, and visual materials… a testament to [Virkar] Yates’s success in capturing the dynamism and profundity of her subject matter”  ---- Winter Jade Werner, Victorian Studies 62.1 (2019): 154-156 (Review)

"Close reading of Hopkins’ never less than challenging verse is pursued in this book with theological rigour and learning in a manner that will ensure that it will become a central resource in scholarship on the finest of late nineteenth century English poets… a work of fine scholarship, theologically learned and poetically sensitive, and yet at the same time spiritually acute and attentive to the delicate, complex world of Hopkins and his writings. This is a book to be treasured and pondered upon."  ---- Professor David Jasper, Literature and Theology (OUP)


Scholarly biography

Aakanksha Virkar completed her doctorate at the University of Sussex, prior to which she was a Commonwealth scholar at the University of Cambridge, a recipient of a full scholarship from the Nehru Trust for Cambridge University. From 2013-2015 she was a Visiting research fellow at the University of Sussex and also at the Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, London.

Supervisory Interests

Aakanksha is happy to supervise postgraduate work on late Victorian and modern literature. She has specific interests in literary modernism and would particularly welcome projects exploring literature and the arts (music and visual culture).

Specific areas within literary studies (1850-1950) might include

  • Victorian/modern transitions
  • philosophy, aesthetics and politics in modern literature
  • poetry and poetics
  • literature, music and visual culture
  • aestheticism, decadence and desire

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, University of Sussex

Award Date: 1 Jan 2010

Master, University of Cambridge

Award Date: 30 Jun 2006

Bachelor, University of Cambridge

1 Oct 200029 Jun 2002

Award Date: 29 Jun 2002

Bachelor, University of Bombay

Award Date: 30 May 2000

External positions

Board Member, International T. S. Eliot Society

1 Jul 20221 Jul 2026

Arts and Humanities Research Council Peer Review College Member, AHRC

1 Mar 202231 Dec 2025

Visiting research fellow, University of Sussex

Oct 2013Oct 2015

Visiting research fellow, Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London



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