Born: Established: 13 Aug 1900 Melbourne Victoria ; Died: Ceased: 4 Nov 1985 Melbourne Victoria
A. A. Phillips was born in Melbourne and attended Melbourne Grammar and Melbourne University with distinction. After completing a B.Litt and a Diploma of Education at Oxford University, he returned to Melbourne in 1925 and began a forty-six year career as school master at Wesley College.
In the 1930s Phillips was a broadcaster, discussing books worth reading, and was an active member of several literary societies. His interest in Australian literature was aroused after a request to provide a list of Australian poets for a British Empire anthology revealed to him the quality of Australian literature. He became an important proponent of Australian literature with his many talks and essays during the 1940s and 1950s. His essay from 1950, "The Cultural Cringe", attempted to show the importance of Australian literature in its own right and provided a new term for the Australian lexicon. His reputation as a critic was firmly established in 1958 when The Australian Tradition was published. By casting the democratic nature of 1890s literature as the foundation of an Australian tradition, this book played a large part in elevating the 1890s to a prominent position in Australian literary criticism. Phillips published several more books on Australian literature and wrote prolifically for periodicals and newspapers such as Meanjin, Overland, the Melbourne Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.
A. A. Phillips received an honorary doctorate from Melbourne University in 1975 and was made a foundation member of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL) in 1978. He died in Melbourne in 1985.