FARMINGTON — The University of Maine at Farmington New Commons Project will present its inaugural public lecture by the renowned Lewis Hyde, poet, essayist, translator, writer and cultural critic. He will speak at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, April 4, in Lincoln Auditorium, UMF Roberts Learning Center. The event is free and open to the public.

A scholar whose work focuses on the nature of imagination, creativity and property, Hyde’s topic will be “In Defense of the Cultural Commons.” Hyde began his career as a poet and today is highly recognized for his scholarship of and devotion to the cultural commons.

The New Commons Project is a UMF public humanities initiative that is working to increase free public access to and participation in a variety of creative works valued by the Maine community. Over the course of this academic year, members of the public have been submitting their ideas for cultural works that they see as important assets to which all are entitled access.

This year’s 12 final entries to the New Commons Project will be announced at a public reception from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 6, in the Emery Community Arts Center.

“We’re totally thrilled that Lewis Hyde, whose hugely influential work on the value of the cultural commons reflects the ideas at the heart of the New Commons Project, will be helping us kick off the next stage of the initiative,” said Kristen Case, UMF associate professor of English and director of the New Commons Project. “His passionate defense of art and ideas as essentially public goods is critical not only to this project but to UMF’s mission as a public liberal arts college.“

Hyde’s 1983 book, “The Gift,” now considered a modern classic, is in defense of the value of creativity in a culture increasingly controlled by money. In “Trickster Makes This World” (1998), Hyde revisits ancient myths to bring to life the playful and disruptive side of human imagination that all cultures need to remain flexible and open to change.


His most recent book, “Common as Air,” is in defense of “cultural commons,” the vast store of art and ideas we have inherited from the past and continue to enrich in the present. In it, he turns to a time when the founders of this country assumed knowledge to be a commonwealth and not a private preserve.

The recipient of innumerable awards, Hyde is a MacArthur, Osher and Guggenheim Fellow and former director of undergraduate creative writing at Harvard University. He teaches during the fall semesters at Kenyon College where he is the Richard L. Thomas Professor of Creative Writing. During the rest of the year he lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he is an associate of Harvard’s Mahindra Humanities Center.

The New Commons Project is made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

To learn more about the University of Maine at Farmington, Maine’s public liberal arts college and home of the New Commons Project, visit the website at newcommons.umf.maine.ed.

Lewis Hyde

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