The Department of English, affectionately and informally called ‘The Kadu Faculty’ symbolises the growth and national recognition accorded to the University of Kelaniya as a whole. Like the University, the English Department was initially assigned a cameo role amidst the larger cast of superstars of the Faculty of Arts, particularly the departments teaching the classical languages of Sanskrit and Pali, and Buddhist philosophy. However, with the increasing role played by the University of Kelaniya on the national stage, and especially during the time of the “re-organization” of the University system, our university became the centre for excellence for languages. Along with this, the sun began to shine on the fledgling Department of English which has now risen to the position of national importance it enjoys today.

Reading for a degree in English at the University of Kelaniya was the privilege of a few for a long time. In the late 1960s, The Department had one English Honors candidate and a small number of lecturers. The one student, M. Ranjith Goonawardhene, subsequently became a renowned lecturer. The situation changed in the 1970s, with the “re-organization scheme” of the universities. Students who wished to read English for their Bachelor of Arts degree from anywhere in Sri Lanka, had to register at the University of the Kelaniya, at its Peliyagoda administrative branch. It was also the end of an era for the Peradeniya Department of English, whose brilliant lecturers had to move to the University of Kelaniya, possibly with some reluctance.

The years following Sri Lanka’s first youth rebellion in the 1970s were the years of growing pains for the Department of English. For the first time, it had a batch of over 6 students reading for an English Honours Degree, facing the hostility of a university traditionally associated with its indigenous subculture. However, the first batch of students weathered the cultural storms, and proceeded to hold positions of power both in Sri Lanka and abroad. Gradually, reading English at the University of Kelaniya began to be the norm rather than the radical exception. With the acceptance of the growing department, the students too, began to expand their horizons and interactions with the rest of the university. From the cautious and traditional combination of English, French and Western classical culture, students began to embrace a multidisciplinary approach to supplement their proficiency in English.

At this time, the department was also home to personalities who were teachers, critics and artists. Mr. A. M.G. Sirimanna was a well-known critic, author and teacher trainer, and professor D. C. R. A. Goonathilake, who became Head of Department is known nationally and internationally as a critic and biographer of postcolonial literature and literary figures and Mr. Gamini Haththotuwegama, the pioneer of street drama in Sri Lanka, taught drama in the Department of English. Ms. Yasmin Rahuman was the only woman lecturer who joined in the mid 1970s.In the 1980s Dr. Lakshmi de Silva, the well- known translator, critic and ‘woman of letters’ joined the department, adding to the illustrious list of personalities the university had attracted.

Today, the faculty members include academics with postgraduate qualifications from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Manchester University, U.K. University of London, U.K., and Kent State University, USA, and the University of Reading, U. K. The multidisciplinary nature of academia in the 21stcentury is symbolized in the specialisations of the academics and the expertise of these faculty members ranges from Applied Linguistics, French Literature, Feminist Research Methodology, Women’s Studies, Literary Criticism, Postcolonial Literature to Film Studies, Theatre and Performance Studies and Digital Humanities.

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