Skip navigation
University of Massachusetts Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst

English Department

Faculty Profiles: Tanya Fernando

Contact Information:

289 Bartlett Hall
Amherst, MA 0l003
fax 545-3880


Assistant Professor

Tanya Jayani Fernando received her A.B. in History from the University of Chicago; an M.A. from NYU in Comparative Literature (with a concentration in Performance Studies); and her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Chicago as an Andrew Mellon fellow.

Her teaching and research interests lie at the intersection of the literary, visual, and performing arts, with a focus on the relationship between aesthetics and politics. She writes and teaches on both the modernist and contemporary arts. Her classes incorporate a strong multidisciplinary focus by drawing on texts from across the humanities and social sciences to demonstrate the work of art’s relevance to contemporary society and to raise larger political questions.

Tanya Fernando is currently completing a book, The Politics of Shock: Modernism, Primitivism, and an Aesthetics of Cure. The book draws on formal analyses of literature, painting, and dance, to explore how modernist artists used ‘shock’ as a radical technique to create a just and ethical world. She brings together work by Roger Fry and the Post-Impressionists, Igor Stravinksy and Vaslav Nijinsky, André Breton and Aimé Césaire, Virginia Woolf and D.H. Lawrence, and Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno.

She views writing as fluid: her scholarship and creative work each inform the other. She is currently working on a set of plays, “The Art/Politics Plays.” As a triptych, each play deals with a different art form (dance, music, and painting), and each plays off a canonical work of art (Wilde’s Salome, Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge, and Picasso’s Guernica). They are in different stages of production, with “Dance, Salome! Dance!” ready for a full production.

Areas of Specialization: Colonial, Postcolonial, & Transnational Studies, Critical Race and Ethnicity Studies, Drama and Performance Studies, Theory and Cultural Studies, 20th Century and Contemporary Literature, Visual Culture