Caryl Phillips, whose work explores the African diaspora in the Caribbean, England and the United States, will come to the Department of English’s Creative Writing Program April 11 to 22 to teach a seminar and meet one-on-one with writers in the graduate and undergraduate programs. During his time at UVA, he will also give a public lecture and a public reading.
Born in St. Kitts, Phillips was raised in Leeds, one of the largest cities in the United Kingdom, and studied English literature at Oxford University. Currently a professor of English at Yale University, he has published 10 novels and five collections of essays, as well as plays, screenplays and two anthologies. His work tackles issues of belonging and identity, race and immigration.
The Kapnick Distinguished Writer-in-Residence Program, launched last fall with James Salter (who died in June) as its first guest, was created in the tradition of William Faulkner’s legendary residencies at the University in 1957 and ’58. The program aims to bring writers of international stature to the Grounds to teach and engage with UVA students and the literary community.
Ian Baucom, UVA’s Buckner W. Clay Dean of Arts & Sciences said, “The Kapnick Distinguished Writer-in-Residence program builds on the tradition of Faulkner’s residencies, and we’re excited to have Caryl Phillips visit Grounds to inspire our talented student writers and to enrich the UVA community through his public events.”
“Caryl Phillips is seen by many as the father of Afro-British fiction,” Jeffery Renard Allen wrote in a May New York Times review of Phillips’ latest novel, “The Lost Child.” (Allen joined the faculty of U.Va.’s Creative Writing Program this semester.)
Phillips’ 1993 novel “Crossing the River” was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won Britain’s oldest literary award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. In 2004, he received a Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book for his novel, “A Distant Shore,” and in 2006, his eighth novel, “Dancing in the Dark,” won the PEN/Beyond the Margins Award.
His literary awards include Rockefeller and Guggenheim fellowships and a Lannan Literary Award. He won the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize for his nonfiction volume, “The European Tribe,” and the Malcolm X Prize for Literature for his novel, “The Final Passage.”
In his latest novel, “The Lost Child,” Phillips imagines the orphan days of Heathcliff from Emily Brontë’s novel, “Wuthering Heights,” before he’s brought into the Earnshaw family, who live on the moors of northern England. The novel depicts Brontë’s final days as she confuses the details of her novel with her family life. Phillips also intertwines the story of a young female university student who drops out of Oxford to marry a Caribbean man and winds up a single mother with two young boys.
“The question of parentage, the question of belonging, is very central to ‘Wuthering Heights,”’ Phillips told NPR in March. “And some of those echoes in that novel obviously began to resonate with me when I was thinking about the more contemporary story.”
Among Phillips’ essay collections are “Color Me English,” published in 2011, “A New World Order” (2001) and “The European Tribe” (1987).
“I am very honored to be the second writer selected for this residency,” Phillips wrote from his apartment in New York City. “UVA has a long and distinguished tradition of teaching creative writing, and a residency like this helps to further enhance the ongoing conversation about the importance of imaginative writing.
“Furthermore, the first writer, the late James Salter, was somebody whose work I greatly admire. It’s very nice to feel that the baton is being passed, temporarily, from him to me.”