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Carleton Convocation Debates The Cultural Ownership of Art and Ideas

January 10, 2014
By Scarlet Park '16

Scholar, essayist, translator, cultural critic, and writer Lewis Hyde will present Carleton College’s weekly convocation address on Friday, Jan. 17 from 10:50 to 11:50 a.m. in the Skinner Memorial Chapel. In his presentation, entitled “Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership,” Hyde will describe a rich tradition in which knowledge was assumed to be commonwealth, not a private preserve, and reveal a vision of how to reclaim the commonwealth of art and ideas that we were meant to inherit. This event is free and open to the public; convocations are also streamed online at

Regarded as an intellectual among artists, and an artist among intellectuals, Hyde’s scholarly work focuses on the nature of imagination, creativity, and property. Hyde is the author of several books, including his most recent, “Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership” (Farrar, Staus and Giroux, 2010), which is a spirited defense of our “cultural commons”—that vast store of ideas, inventions, and works of art that we have inherited from the past and continue to enrich in the present.

Suspicious of the current idea that all creative work is “intellectual property,” Hyde turns to America’s Founding Fathers in search of other ways to imagine the fruits of human wit and imagination, describing how knowledge used to be considered a commonwealth rather than a private property. Bringing the past to bear on present matters, Hyde sheds fresh light on everything from the Human Genome Project to Bob Dylan’s musical roots.

Hyde has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Lannan Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 1991 he was made a MacArthur Fellow. He is also the author of the seminal book, “The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World” (Vintage, 25th Anniversary edition, 2007), which bridges the chasm between the values of the artist and the pressures of the marketplace by considering traditional economies based on reciprocal gift giving. Hyde’s poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals, including the Kenyon Review, the American Poetry Review, the Paris Review, and The Nation. Learn more about Hyde at

This event is sponsored by the Carleton College Office of College Relations. For more information, including disability accommodations, call (507) 222-4308. The Skinner Memorial Chapel is located on First Street, between College and Winona Streets, in Northfield.