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Monday, 17 August 2015

Renowned Author Caryl Phillips Lecture and Workshop at Northumbria

Clare Elliott

On Tuesday 26th May colleagues in American Studies and English welcomed the critically-acclaimed author Caryl Phillips to the University. Phillips is one of the most highly acclaimed novelists and essayist of his generation. His numerous works of fiction and non-fiction include The Lost Child (2015), Colour Me English (2011), Dancing in the Dark (2005), The Atlantic Sound (2000) and Crossing the River (1994) He was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for his novel, A Distant Shore (2003) and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Crossing the River. His many other awards include the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.
Phillips' lecture for staff and students.

The University held two main events that day. The first was a Creative Practice and Critical Engagement Workshop which was attended by literature and creative writing students. This was an inspiring event where Phillips answered questions about his novel Crossing the River. After a long interview with Dr Clare Elliott, Phillips engaged with several students in discussion about this text and his other work. We talked about how Phillips’s fiction and non-fiction deals with the Black Diaspora and notices a tension between a sense of homelessness and an African belonging that is often experienced by his diasporan characters. We discussed issues of class and race and how Phillips connects the two in his writing and we talked about gender, place and identity, and reimagining histories of migration. In the latter half of the workshop creative writing students were asked to write a short piece with these themes in mind. The exercise was fruitful and the author gave a full critique of each short story. In the evening we had the pleasure of hearing from Phillips again as he read from his new novel The Lost Child. This was a public event where the audience heard Phillips in conversation with Professor Brian Ward and Dr Clare Elliott. We talked about The Lost Child as a response to Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights; themes of education, class and race in the novel as well as music and literature more broadly. The day was full, enriching and thoroughly enjoyed by all!

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