Kathleen Fernando has taught in the Department of English since 2006. She teaches courses in postcolonial literature and theory, South Asian literature, Caribbean literature and Canadian diasporic writing. Her research investigates the intersections between middle class notions of moral hygiene and religious constructions of purity/pollution that circulated in the years preceding and following Indian Independence/Partition. Women, gender and sexuality are thus central to her research, much of which is concerned with the role of South Asian women in the imperial and postcolonial imagination. She is currently working on transforming her dissertation into a book length project.

Areas of Expertise

Post-colonial literature(s) and theory, South Asian literature, Canadian diasporic writing.


2012 — Doctor of Philosophy from York University

2003 — Master of Arts from University of Illinois at Chic

1994 — Bachelor of Arts from Goshen College

Courses Recently Taught

This is a methods course that trains students to think and write like a comparativist. Where CWL 120 is an introduction to World Literature as methodology, CWL 220 builds on that foundation by situating world literatures within the broader discipline of Comparative Literature. This is a theoretically-focused course that integrates the study of literary texts with the founding and dominant theoretical movements of the 20th century. Building upon the close reading skills that students will have developed in their first-year core course, students will learn specific strategies of reading literature, including contrapuntal reading, distant reading, and surface reading. Course readings may include Kalidasa’s “Shakuntala, Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway,” Jorge Luis Borges’s “Labyrinths,” Sophocles’ “Antigone” and Kamila Shamsie’s “Home Fire”. The theme and texts taught in the course will vary each year and students are encouraged to contact the course instructor to find out the specific reading list for a given year. This counts toward the core course requirement for the concentration. Permission of instructor required.This course paired with any CWL course counts towards the Humanities diversification requirement. These courses must be taken at Kenyon. Prerequisite: CWL 120 or select, cross-listed sections of ENGL 103/104 or MLL 100- or 200-level courses (in translation) or CLAS 130 or 225. Offered every spring.

Each section of these first-year seminars approaches the study of literature through the exploration of a single theme in texts drawn from a variety of literary genres (such as tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry, epic, novel, short story, film and autobiography) and historical periods. Classes are small, offering intensive discussion and close attention to each student's writing. Students in each section are asked to work intensively on composition as part of a rigorous introduction to reading, thinking, speaking and writing about literary texts. During the semester, instructors assign frequent essays and may also require oral presentations, quizzes, examinations and research projects. This course is not open to juniors and seniors without permission of the department chair. Offered every year.

In his "Critique of Violence," the German philosopher Walter Benjamin raises the question: "Is any nonviolent resolution of conflict possible?" In this course, we investigate this question through an exploration of literary and theoretical writings that shed light on the historical experience of decolonization. Decolonization was often imagined as a "new day," free from oppression and strife. In reality, however, independence from the colonizer was almost always marked by many manifestations of violence. Why was decolonization such a violent phenomenon? How did violence express itself in response to race, class, gender, and religious and linguistic difference? How did the various anticolonial nationalisms imagine everyday life after independence? How was literature — novels, poems, short stories, plays and film — shaped by the struggles of anticolonial resistance and decolonization? And finally, how do fictional texts represent everyday life after decolonization? These are some of the questions that we explore course. We begin with an exploration of a few critical writings on violence: Frantz Fanon's "Concerning Violence," Walter Benjamin's "Critique of Violence," Mohandas K. Gandhi's "Hindu Swaraj," Hannah Arendt's "Reflections on Violence" and excerpts from Edward Said's "Culture and Imperialism." We use the questions and responses that we generate from our discussion of these theoretical texts to frame our subsequent analyses of literary texts. Those texts include writing from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Trinidad, Jamaica and Zimbabwe. Rabindranath Tagore's "The Home and the World," Earl Lovelace's "The Dragon Can't Dance," Shyam Selvadurai's "Funny Boy," Michael Ondaatje's "Anil's Ghost," Tsitsi Dangarembga's "Nervous Conditions" and Baburao Bagul's "Mother" are some of the works that we read in the context of the course. This counts toward the methods requirement for the major. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104. Open only to first-year and sophomore students.

Through an exploration of fiction, poetry, short stories, critical essays, film and music, this course attempts to get a sense of the diversity of Caribbean literature. We read texts from, and about, Trinidad, St. Lucia, Jamaica, Haiti, Barbados and many other islands. Adopting an intersectional approach, we examine how race, class, gender, sexuality and migration are represented in these texts, paying particular attention to the transnational mobilities and intimacies of bodies, languages, cultural practices and intergenerational memory. Some questions we address: How did anti-colonial writers and poets critique colonial rule and imagine independence and decolonization? How might other cultural forms — Carnival, steel pan, calypso, hip-hop and cricket — enter into the literary and cultural imagination? How is the middle passage invoked, imagined and deployed as a way of representing Caribbean history as well as subsequent transnational crossings? Comparatively, how might the crossing of the Kala pani (the black waters) by indentured labor from China and India be imagined? How might “islands” and the “ocean” inform the Caribbean aesthetic? And finally, what counts as Caribbean literature? We read texts by C.L.R James, Aime Cesaire, Frantz Fanon, Jean Rhys, Kamau Brathwaite, Derek Walcott, Earl Lovelace, Shani Mootoo, Ramabai Espinet, Marlene NourbesSe Philip, Merle Hodge, Andrea Levy, Dionne Brand, Nalo Hopkinson, Edwidge Danticat and David Chariandy, among others. This counts toward the diversity and post-1900 requirements for the major. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104. Only open to first-year and sophomore students.

Exile, Edward Said writes, is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: Its essential sadness can never be surmounted. What is it about leaving one’s native home that evokes this essential sadness? Is a native place always a true home? What are the social, cultural, emotional, and political challenges that accompany leaving home as well as arriving in a new country? What does it mean to return home as a member of the diasporic community abroad? How do we distinguish between the various types of migrations — exile, refugee, expatriate and émigré? How do writers imagine the various hybridity — linguistic, cultural, religious, gender and sexual — that result from these complicated crossings? We interrogate these questions related to diasporic living, through an examination of an array of literary and theoretical writings. This counts toward the post-1900 and diversity requirements for the major. Prerequisite: ENGL 210-291 or junior standing.

If you ask Canadian people what defines Canadian culture, they will struggle to find an answer. Canadians are taught that they distinguish themselves from the U.S. in terms of how they treat their immigrant population: the U.S. is a “melting pot” — immigrants must assimilate to American culture; Canada is a “mosaic” — immigrants maintain their cultures and rituals. Believing the idea of the “Canadian cultural mosaic” leads many Canadians to state proudly that Canada is an immigrant nation. And in many ways, that statement is true: Immigrants comprise about 50 percent of the Toronto population, and more than 22 percent of the entire Canadian population. But the cultural mosaic is also a myth that overlooks the history and present-day lives of Indigenous Canadians and assumes everyone living in Canada feels perfectly “at home” wherever they are. Canadian writers, consequently, grapple with ideas about the relationship between space (geographical, cultural, imagined) and identity in a variety of ways and from a wide range of perspectives. In our course, we read short stories, poems and novels by Canadian authors who represent ideas about home, loss, belonging, citizenship, immigration, colonization, landscape, space and identity. We ask, for example, to what extent is “national identity” stable? What is the relationship between national and individual identity? What makes a text “transnational”? How do Canadian writers use landscape and space to think through issues of identity? We do not find a singular, definitive answer to the question of Canadian culture; but we analyze its complexities and pluralities, and in doing so uncover more nuanced and accurate truths about cultural identities in Canada. Authors studied include Lee Maracle, Alice Munro, David Chariandy, Dionne Brand, Souvankham Thammavongsa, Phoebe Wang, Thomas King and more. This counts toward the post-1900 requirement for the major. Prerequisite: ENGL 210-291 or junior standing.

The course offers an exploration of literary texts from writers based in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and/or the South Asian diaspora. It examines how South Asia as a category is imagined and evoked, as well as how the literary classification changes the way we approach and read the text. To what extent is a reading of a text bound with the national literary canon? In what ways are literary texts informed by the social, historical and political conditions while also participating in the transformation of the public sphere? What are the ways in which South Asian writers articulate a specifically postcolonial imaginary within a global discourse? What, indeed, counts as a South Asian text? In addition to poems, plays, short stories and novels, we read critical and nonfiction works. Topics to be examined in the course may include borders and locations, traumas and triumphs of decolonization, formation of the national canon, and articulation of identity within and outside the nation. The thematic focus of the course may vary from year to year. Students should contact the instructor to ascertain the specific focus and texts to be adopted. This counts toward the post-1900 and diversity requirements for the major. Prerequisite: ENGL 210-291 or junior standing.

Individual study in English is a privilege reserved for senior majors who want to pursue a course of reading or complete a writing project on a topic not regularly offered in the curriculum. Because individual study is one option in a rich and varied English curriculum, it is intended to supplement, not take the place of, coursework, and it cannot normally be used to fulfill requirements for the major. An IS earns the student 0.5 units of credit, although in special cases it may be designed to earn 0.25 units. To qualify to enroll in an individual study, a student must identify a member of the English department willing to direct the project. In consultation with that faculty member, the student must write a one- to two-page proposal that the department chair must approve before the IS can go forward. The chair’s approval is required to ensure that no single faculty member becomes overburdened by directing too many IS courses. In the proposal, the student should provide a preliminary bibliography (and/or set of specific problems, goals and tasks) for the course, outline a specific schedule of reading and/or writing assignments, and describe in some detail the methods of assessment (e.g., a short story to be submitted for evaluation biweekly; a 30-page research paper submitted at course’s end, with rough drafts due at given intervals). Students should also briefly describe any prior coursework that particularly qualifies them for their proposed individual studies. The department expects IS students to meet regularly with their instructors for at least one hour per week, or the equivalent, at the discretion of the instructor. The amount of work submitted for a grade in an IS should approximate at least that required, on average, in 400-level English courses. In the case of group individual studies, a single proposal may be submitted, assuming that all group members follow the same protocols. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of their proposed individual study well in advance, preferably the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek departmental approval.