Caryl Phillips Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Caryl Phillips’s early work in drama brought him immediate acclaim as a young writer worthy of attention. Although his first three plays, produced in the 1980’s in London, were praised by reviewers, he is better known for his six novels and his three collections of essays. He has also written for film, radio, and television, both drama and documentaries. His literary criticism, particularly of writers on multicultural and ethnic subjects, and his commentary on social issues have appeared in a number of academic and popular journals. He also writes about sports and music. Phillips has served on several editorial boards and is the editor of the Faber and Faber Caribbean Series. His papers are collected at the Bienecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Caryl Phillips won his first playwriting award in 1984 from the British Broadcasting Company for his radio play The Wasted Years. In that year he also received the Arts Council of Great Britain Bursary in Drama, as well as a British Council Fiftieth Anniversary Fellowship. However, he is better known for his six novels, whose themes are an outgrowth of those in the three plays. His first novel, The Final Passage (1985), won the Malcolm X Prize for Literature in 1987. His 1987 collection of travel essays, The European Tribe, won the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize for Literature. In 1992 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and was named by the London Sunday Times as Young Writer of the Year. His novel Crossing the River (1993) was a finalist for the Booker Prize in 1993. In 1994 he received the Lannan Literary Award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. In the same year he was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation residency. He holds an honorary master of arts degree from Amherst College and an honorary doctorate from Leeds Metropolitan University.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Ledent, Bénédicte. Caryl Phillips. New York: Manchester University Press, 2002. An overview study of Phillips’s work, analyzing the novels in depth as representing a new Diasporic sensibility.

Ledent, Bénédicte. “A Fictional and Cultural Labyrinth: Caryl Phillips’s The Nature of Blood.” Ariel 32 (January, 2001): 185-195. Discusses the fragmented nature of Phillips’s narrative.

Low, Gail. “‘A Chorus of Common Memory’: Slavery and Redemption in Caryl Phillips’s Cambridge and Crossing the River.” Research in African Literature 29 (Winter, 1998): 122-141. Discusses Phillips’s representations of slavery in his novels.

O’Callaghan, Evelyn. “Historical Fiction and Fictional History: Caryl Phillips’s Cambridge.” Journal of Commonwealth Literature 29, no. 2 (1993): 34-47. Connects Cambridge to historical narratives and suggests that Phillips’ novel reflects intertextual relationships with journals and narrative histories of the Caribbean.

Phillips, Caryl. “Crisscrossing the River: An Interview with Caryl Phillips.” Interview by Carol Margaret Davison. Ariel 35, no. 4 (October, 1994): 91-99. This interview follows the publication of Crossing the River. Phillips traces the origin of the novel to his play The Shelter and gives critical insights into black-white power relationships under colonial regimes, a continuing theme in his work.

Pinckney, Darryl. Out There: Mavericks of Black Literature. New York: BasicCivitas Books, 2002. Phillips is considered along with J. A. Rogers and Vincent O. Carter as an author expressing an alienated black consciousness.

Sarvan, Charles P., and Hasan Marhama. “The Fictional Works of Caryl Phillips: An Introduction.” World Literature Today 65, no. 1 (1991): 35-40. Interprets three of Phillips’s novels, Final Passage, A State of Independence, and Higher Ground, and probes Phillips’ literary identity as either British or Caribbean.

Smethurst, Paul. “Postmodern Blackness and Unbelonging in the Works of Caryl Phillips.” Journal of Commonwealth Literature 37, no. 2 (2002): 5-29. Discusses Phillips’s representation of the situation of blacks in Great Britain, especially themes of racism.