Stephen Clingman, professor of English and director of the Interdisciplinary Studies Institute, presented the Five College Jackie Pritzen Lecture on April 3 at Commonwealth Honors College. He spoke on “Rights, Routes, and Refugees: The Fiction of Caryl Phillips.”
This annual lecture honors Jackie M. Pritzen, who served the consortium for 26 years, working with faculty members to build and sustain academic cooperation across the five institutions. Each year the lecture also celebrates a distinguished faculty member whose scholarship, teaching and service continue that work. Clingman was chosen for the honor by the Five College deans.
Through the fiction of Caryl Phillips, Clingman explored the relationship between literature and human rights, what literature tells readers about human rights, and how human rights enter into the core of literary investigation. Phillips was a migrant early in his life, arriving with his parents in England from the West Indies, and his work explores the complex ordeals of refugees and marginalized figures in a range of different settings. If rights are intimately connected with notions of place, then Phillips’ travelers and exiles make readers reconsider what the very notion of human rights might come to mean in a deeper and more searching understanding.
Clingman has published widely on Nadine Gordimer and other South African writers, as well as on transnational fiction. He has held a number of fellowships internationally, and his biography of Bram Fischer, the South African political figure and lawyer, won the Alan Paton Award, South Africa’s highest prize for non-fiction.