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This series looks at the different literary traditions of the United States, including African American literature, Native American literature, Chicano and US latino literature, Asian American literature, as well as emergent literatures such as Indian or Arab American.
Although the series' focus is mostly comparative, multiethnic, and intercultural, it also welcomes feature analyses of single literary traditions.
Issues of race, ethnicity, class gender, and the interspace between the political and the aesthetic, among other possible topics, figure prominently in the series.

Authors are cordially invited to submit proposals and/or full manuscripts to the publisher at BRILL, Masja Horn.
Thematically and structurally, the work of the Kittitian-British writer Caryl Phillips reimagines the notion of genealogy. Phillips’s fiction, drama, and non-fiction foreground broken filiations and forever-deferred promises of new affiliations in the aftermath of slavery and colonization. His texts are also in dialogue with multiple historical figures and literary influences, imagining around the life of the African American comedian Bert Williams and the Caribbean writer Jean Rhys, or retelling the story of Othello. Additionally, Phillips’s work resonates with that of other writers and visual artists, such as Derek Walcott, Toni Morrison, or Isaac Julien. Written to honor the career of renown Phillipsian scholar Bénédicte Ledent, the contributions to this volume, including one by Phillips himself, explore the multiple ramifications of genealogy, across and beyond Phillips’s work.
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This chapter examines a group of written and visual/cinematic texts in which the writer Caryl Phillips and the filmmaker and installation artist Isaac Julien situate themselves in relation to others whom they present as symbolic parents or surrogate selves or in relation to the historical circumstances of their own formation. These texts sit at the intersection of biography and autobiography; portraiture and self-portraiture; fiction, memoir, and documentary. Generic hybrids, these texts are autogenealogies, whereby, I suggest, “Caryl Phillips” and “Isaac Julien” perform acts of self-fashioning by inserting themselves in invented lineages that extend beyond national boundaries. While the lives and careers of Phillips and Julien converge and diverge, criss-crossing Britain and the rest of the world, the work of each elaborates diasporic perspectives that prompt us to think beyond nation, race, sex, class, and other straitjackets of identity as we follow them in forging our own genealogies.

In: Caryl Phillips’s Genealogies
In: Caryl Phillips’s Genealogies

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Most critics who have worked to restore the significance of Phillips’s radio documentaries and marginalised literary productions have done so by relating them to his more widely read and celebrated novels, an approach that makes sense since the scripts of these ‘minor genres’ are usually not readily available. Such comparative approaches are important to literary criticism because they illustrate, as Bénédicte Ledent suggests, “the continuity but also the evolution in Phillips’s preoccupations.” In this chapter, I extend these readings by looking outward, in order to register the significance of Phillips’s radio drama and documentaries to the broader context of Caribbean studies as well as his own relationship to the field’s imbrication with mass media communications.

In: Caryl Phillips’s Genealogies
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Although Caryl Phillips’s In the Falling Snow (2009) does not explicitly present nonheterosexual and noncisgender characters, this chapter proposes a reading of the novel through a queer lens. In light of Cathy J. Cohen’s broadened understanding of queerness, the adopted approach addresses the ways in which the novel discusses the complex connections between the categories of gender, race, and sexuality, and reveals how white supremacy and heteronormativity are imbricated with one another. More specifically, the chapter explores the ways in which Phillips’s characters trouble binary dichotomies and normalised identity categories, but also take part in the re-enactment of oppressive norms. In the Falling Snow implicitly reflects queerness through its aesthetics and themes, and offers a glimpse at the latent, potential coalitional alliances that can only be visible from a multidimensional and fluid position.

In: Caryl Phillips’s Genealogies

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The 2007 play Rough Crossings is read in this chapter as revealing the extent of existentialist influences on Caryl Phillips. Jean-Paul Sartre’s work on dislocating tragedy to represent contemporary epistemic confusions is seen as a palimpsestic presence in the performative historiographies deployed in Rough Crossings, as it addresses the diasporic (re)settlement in Sierra Leone of a community of formerly enslaved in the wake of the American War of Independence. In terms of intellectual history, the existentialist influence is mediated by the respective works of Richard Wright and of Derek Walcott, two important figures for Phillips. This link highlights how the stage is turned into a privileged location for the confrontations between positionalities in a key moment of political and ethical choices. This is operated through an emphasis on individual voices which is aligned with phenomenological considerations. I suggest that the relying on orality to counter written narratives of the episodes shown in the play can be affiliated to Sartre’s own dramaturgies.

In: Caryl Phillips’s Genealogies

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Over the centuries, Othello has become an emblematic portrait of the black presence in the West. Historically, many black writers and theorists have felt interpellated by Shakespeare’s play’s compelling picture of black isolation and double consciousness. Given the far-reaching influence of this representation of diasporic blackness, it is not surprising that Caryl Phillips has repeatedly turned to muse on the character in his non-fiction and fiction alike. In this chapter, I examine his rewriting of Othello’s voice in The Nature of Blood (1997) and compare it to Desdemona (2012), a play written collaboratively by Nobel-Prize awardee Toni Morrison and Mali musician Rokia Traoré, in order to trace their parallel genealogies. I argue that both Phillips and Morrison examine in rich detail the race, class, and gender tensions that underlie their source text, mapping complex affective geographies of belonging and deeply entangled relationalities.

In: Caryl Phillips’s Genealogies
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Caryl Phillips has repeatedly expressed his strong interest in formal experimentation and innovation. His inventive formal strategies have been greatly inspired by his rich experience in scriptwriting for theatre, film, and television. In this chapter, I analyse the filmic features in Dancing in the Dark (2005) and examine how images are created by words; how the narrative structure, order and voices are disrupted through using filmmaking techniques; how the rhyme and rhythm of language create a musicality that further strengthens the visual effects. I argue that by applying cinematic strategies in Dancing in the Dark, Phillips breaks through the traditional narrative pattern, constructs the protagonist Bert Williams’s life in a concrete and lively way, and creates multiple perspectives for readers to view him. Yet despite all these efforts to get access to Bert Williams, he ultimately remains an enigmatic figure.

In: Caryl Phillips’s Genealogies

Abstract

This chapter contends that Caryl Phillips’s Cambridge (1991) and Foreigners: Three English Lives (2007) exemplify a genealogy of the recognition of blackness. Through Cambridge, in the eponymous novel, and Francis Barber and Randolph Turpin, two of Foreigners’ three black protagonists, Phillips signals a carryover from the sixteenth to the twentieth century of negative perceptions (and self-perceptions) of blackness. Additionally, Foreigners portrays, through its third black protagonist, David Oluwale, that even in the twentieth century, fighting against racism might lead to torture and death, indicating that despite the passage of time, and strides having been made by black people, there is a pervasive desire to erase or vilify them, which invariably impacts their identities and their overall being-in-the-world, as Heidegger refers to it.

In: Caryl Phillips’s Genealogies