The Richard L. Thomas Professor of Creative Writing at Kenyon College, Lewis Hyde is an essayist, translator, and cultural critic with a particular interest in the public life of the imagination. His most recent book is Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010), a defense of our “cultural commons”—that vast store of ideas, inventions, and works of art that we have inherited from the past and that continue to enrich us in the present.
Hyde is now at work on A Primer for Forgetting (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, forthcoming), an interdisciplinary exploration of the beneficial uses of forgetfulness. The work draws from mythology (e.g., Orphic instructions to the dead), history (e.g., Ernest Renan’s reflections on nationhood), politics (e.g., South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission), aesthetics (e.g., Marcel Duchamp’s praise of artistic self-forgetfulness), psychology (e.g., therapeutic approaches to memories of trauma), and more (e.g., reflections on a family member’s dementia).
A MacArthur Fellow and a former director of undergraduate creative writing at Harvard University, Hyde is best known for his book The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property (Random House, 1983), a work that illuminates and defends the noncommercial portion of artistic practice. He earned an undergraduate degree in sociology from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in comparative literature from the University of Iowa.