Graham Storey Lecture: "Nothing Personal: James Baldwin, Richard Avedon and the pursuit of Celebrity" by Caryl Phillips

Monday 10 February at 5pm

Lady Mitchell Hall, Sidgwick Site, Cambridge

The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception in the English Faculty

All welcome - no need to book - admission free



In 1964, at the height of the Civil Rights struggle in the United States, the famous African-American writer, and the renowned photographer, Richard Avedon, collaborated on a book called, 'Nothing Personal'. In the wake of its publication, both men were accused of cheaply pursuing celebrity, as opposed to disciplining their talents toward the higher principles of their chosen art forms. Fifty years later, on both sides of the Atlantic, it is difficult to think of a serious photographer or literary writer who might be considered a celebrity. In fact, as we look to other art forms - including many of the digital variety - as the 'mirrors' into which we might peer to see ourselves, literary writers face a whole new set of problems related to visibility. What does the collaboration between Baldwin and Avedon tell us about the chances of overcoming those problems?

Caryl Phillips

This year’s Graham Storey lecturer is the prolific, award-winning writer and critic Caryl Phillips. Born in St Kitts on 13 March 1958, Phillips was brought to Britain by his parents when he was 3 months old. He grew up in Leeds, studied English at Oxford, lived briefly in Edinburgh and then moved to London, where he began writing plays and then novels. His first novel, The Final Passage (1985), told the story of a migration from the Caribbean to England and the second, A State of Independence (1986), that of a reverse journey. While best known as a novelist, Phillips has moved between forms much more freely than most of his peers. He’s the author of numerous plays for radio, TV and theatre, as well as screenplays, ‘creative biography’, travel writing, and essays on topics that notably include music and sport. The core concern of his work is a tension between arrival and departure, strangeness and familiarity: a feeling he has at different moments characterized as the ‘gift of displacement' and the ‘high anxiety of belonging'. He is currently Professor of English at Yale University.

 For more information contact Mary Richmond on or 01223 332555