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Jayne Anne Phillips

Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters

West Virginia University presents Jayne Anne Phillips with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters for her achievement of national preeminence in the field

Jayne Anne Phillips was born and raised in Buckhannon, West Virginia. Her first book of stories, Black Tickets, published in 1979 when she was 26, won the prestigious Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction, awarded by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Featured in Newsweek, Black Tickets was pronounced "stories unlike any in our literature . . . a crooked beauty" by Raymond Carver and established Phillips as a writer "in love with the American language."

Phillips has been praised by fellow writer Nadine Gordimer as "the best short story writer since Eudora Welty" and Black Tickets has since become a classic of the short story genre. Phillips’ first novel Machine Dreams, set in fictional Bellington, West Virginia, elegantly and astutely observes one American family from the turn of the century through the Vietnam War. The novel was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and chosen by the New York Times Book Review as one of twelve Best Books of 1984.

Since then, Phillips has published another short story collection (Fast Lanes) and four more novels (Shelter, MotherKind, Lark and Termite, and Quiet Dell), all to critical acclaim.  She has won or been shortlisted for almost every major literary award in the United States, as well as numerous international awards, and her work has been published in 10 languages.

Her most recent novel, Quiet Dell, is a mesmerizing retelling of a harrowing true crime, a 1931 multiple murder that took place in a West Virginia hamlet of the same name. The tragedy was one of the first nationally sensationalized crimes in America; the story preoccupied a rural town and the Depression-era nation for months. Through the revelation of secrets both terrible and beautiful, Quiet Dell recounts the connections woven between us even in tragedy.

In addition to publishing her own work, Phillips has also taught writing at Harvard University, Williams College, Boston University, New York University and Brandeis University. She is currently University Professor of English and Director of the Rutgers University-Newark Masters of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing.