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Lewis Hyde

“The Collapsible Net: Reflections on Hunting”

Lewis Hyde

Visiting Scholar, Fall

I have hunted butterflies since I was a child and am now at work on a book trying to figure out what I’ve been doing. One focus is the odd fact that when I walk with the butterfly net I fall into an alert state difficult to reproduce without the net in hand, a delicious trance of undifferentiated awareness. Other topics naturally arise as I explore this trance: questions of kinds of knowing (sensual vs. abstract), of time (present vs. evolutionary), of method (do we kill what we hunt?), and of place (where butterflies are local so too must be the hunter).

Lewis Hyde is an essayist, translator, and cultural critic. His books include The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property (Vintage Books, 1983), Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998), and Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010). A Primer for Forgetting: Getting Past the Past, published this past summer, explores the many situations in which forgetfulness is more useful than memory—in myth, personal psychology, politics, art, and spiritual life. A MacArthur Fellow and former director of undergraduate creative writing at Harvard University, Hyde taught creative writing and American literature for many years at Kenyon College. Now retired, he lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife, the writer Patricia Vigderman.