Caryl Phillips

ISHA Residency Spring 2010: Writing/Migration
April 5th-9th, 2010

In April 2010, ISHA welcomed the renowned writer Caryl Phillips for its inaugural residency in the ‘Beyond Borders’ residency program. The weeklong event, on the theme of ‘Writing/Migration’, took place from April 5th-9th 2010, with major funding from a College of Humanities and Fine Arts Visioning Grant. Through Caryl Phillips’s examination of migration and exile in settings ranging from Africa, to Europe, to the new world, he has founded a body of work that is both relevant and timely as well as innovative in form and approach. He joined the University community in a full spectrum of activities, including a fiction reading, a lecture, a screening of one of his films, and a reading of one of his plays.

Images from the Residency

View images from Caryl Phillips’s fiction reading, “Distant Shores,” the Annual ISHA Lecture, “Colour Me English,” and more.  Photographs of Caryl Phillips at ISHA public events courtesy Dennis Vandal.

See full album



Born in St. Kitts, Caryl Phillips left the West Indies at the age of four months when his parents migrated to Britain. He grew up in Leeds and later attended Oxford University. He began writing for the theatre and has written several plays, as well as dramas and documentaries for radio and television. Notable among these are his screenplays for Playing Away (1986) and for the Merchant Ivory adaptation of V. S. Naipaul’s The Mystic Masseur (2001). 

To date Caryl Phillips has published nine novels, including The Final Passage (1985), A State of Independence (1986), Higher Ground (1989), Cambridge (1991), Crossing the River (1993), The Nature of Blood (1997), and A Distant Shore (2003). He is also a prolific essay writer, and his non-fiction volumes include The European Tribe (1987), The Atlantic Sound (2000), and A New World Order (2001). His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Phillips was named Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year in 1992 and was on the 1993 Granta list of Best of Young British Writers. His literary awards include the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a British Council Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Fellowship, and Britain's oldest literary award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, for Crossing the River, which was also shortlisted for the 1993 Booker Prize. A Distant Shore won the 2004 Commonwealth Writers Prize, while Dancing in the Dark won the 2006 PEN/Beyond the Margins Award. 

Caryl Phillips has taught at universities in Ghana, Sweden, Singapore, Barbados, India, and the United States, and in 1999 was the University of the West Indies Humanities Scholar of the Year. In 2002-3 he was a Fellow at the Centre for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. Formerly Henry R. Luce Professor of Migration and Social Order at Columbia University, he is currently Professor of English at Yale University. Phillips is an Honorary Fellow of The Queen’s College, Oxford University, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Caryl Phillips’s most recent novel, In the Falling Snow, has just been published. For more information, see

Listen to Phillips’s Interview with WFCR

Phillips speaks about literature, education, and his life during an interview with WFCR’s Morning Edition host Bob Paquette. 

Listen to the interview.


Tuesday, 6 April, 8pm
Distant Shores: A Fiction Reading by Caryl Phillips
Bernie Dallas Room, Goodell Building.

Wednesday, 7 April, 4:30 pm
The Shelter by Caryl Phillips (Act 2)
Caryl Phillips will introduce the performance and participate in discussion.
In collaboration with the Theater Department.
Curtain Theater.

Wednesday, 7 April, 7:30 pm 
Playing Away, with screenplay by Caryl Phillips. 
In collaboration with the 17th Annual Massachusetts Multicultural Film Series "Cinematic Cities."
Isenberg School of Management 137.

Thursday, 8 April, 4:30 pm 
Annual ISHA Lecture 2010
Caryl Phillips, ‘Colour Me English’
Bernie Dallas Room, Goodell Building.

All events free and open to the public. 


ISHA is grateful for sponsorship from the following. 

The College of Humanities and Fine Arts Visioning Grant (Joel Martin, Dean); Vice-Chancellor for Research and Engagement; Dean of the Graduate School; Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; Department of English; Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures; Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies; Department of Afro-American Studies; 17th Annual Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival; Graduate Colloquium in Film Studies; Department of History; Department of Anthropology; The Center for the Study of African American Language.

Caryl Phillips in Stockholm image courtesy of Laurent Denimal