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>  News Releases >   2005 >   October

Novelist Caryl Phillips to speak Nov. 3 at Dartmouth College

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 10/17/05 • Contact Genevieve Haas (603) 646-3661

Caryl Phillips
Author Caryl Phillips will speak at Dartmouth Nov. 3. (Photograph by Michael Freeman)

Novelist Caryl Phillips, author of A Distant Shore and Crossing the River, will give a lecture at Dartmouth College on Nov. 3 at 4 p.m. on his latest novel, Dancing in the Dark. The event will be held in the Sanborn Library and is free and open to the public.

Phillips, a native of St. Kitts who grew up in Great Britain, is an internationally recognized author of eight novels and three non-fiction books as well as numerous dramatic works for stage and screen. Much of his work addresses the experience of black immigrants, including his newest work, Dancing in the Dark, which tells the story of the African-American vaudevillian Bert Williams.

Williams, a light-skinned African-American who performed at the turn of the century, attained enormous celebrity for a black man of his era. In many respects, his achievements were path-breaking; he was among the few black performers to appeal to white audiences and he was known as a gifted comic. Nevertheless, he suffered innumerable indignities due to his race and his on-stage persona tended to validate and reinforce many of the worst stereotypes whites held about blacks. Phillips was initially drawn to Williams' story based on a picture of Williams depicting the light-skinned black man in blackface. "It's a distressing thing to see a black guy blacking up his face. That was the initial fascination - why someone would willingly choose to do that," says Phillips.

Phillips' talk will focus on his book and on the nature of role-playing in the immigrant experience in America. He also plans to show rare film footage of Williams' vaudeville performances. The lecture will be followed by a book signing.

This event is sponsored by the Dartmouth College English Department.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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