"Memory is the mother of the muses because, as Vladimir Nabokov once noted, all art must work with materials that Mnemosyne, with mysterious foresight, has stored up and made available. That gathering up implies, however, that the memory-work of creation is always double, for the creative spirit necessarily consigns to oblivion vastly more material than it ever retains” – Lewis Hyde
This is a very rare opportunity in the UK to study with Lewis Hyde, US poet and cultural critic, best known for his books The Gift and Trickster Makes This World.
Join us for a fascinating week as we investigate the theory and the direct experience, the personal and the cultural benefits, the creativity and the associated dangers that surround the processes of remembering and forgetting.
This will be a rich mix of myth, psychological, spiritual and creative process in this new area of investigation for the public imagination.
In this short course we will not only explore the double life of memory and forgetting but as we do so we’ll conduct a thought experiment, seeking out those instances where forgetfulness is more useful than memory. To that end we’ll survey ancient mythology (a little Homer, a little Plato); personal psychology (where self-forgetfulness can be a doorway to creativity); and finally spiritual life and art (a little Buddhism, a little Christianity, and a set of artists who concern themselves with memory).
The course will include short readings from Homer, Plato, Saint Augustine, Zen master Dogen, and Jorge Luis Borges. There will be a film about South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation work (where amnesty—judicial forgetting—was one sought-after end) and participants will have a chance to consider art practices arising out of ideas from John Cage, James Turrell, and William Kentridge.
Participants in this course will become familiar with classical myths concerning memory and forgetting, with some of the psychological and spiritual practices that focus on memory, and with the ways in which these myths and practices are reflected in the creative arts.
Who should come?
The course will be addressed to all students interested in myth, the psychology of everyday life, spiritual and artistic practice, and, above all, the ways in which these distinct points of focus actually mingle and inform one another.
Lewis Hyde is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic with a particular interest in the public life of the imagination. His 1983 book, The Gift, illuminates and defends the non-commercial portion of artistic practice. Trickster Makes This World (1998) uses a group of ancient myths to argue for the kind of disruptive intelligence all cultures need if they are to remain lively, flexible, and open to change. Hyde's most recent book, Common as Air, 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 that we continue to enrich in the present. A MacArthur Prize Fellow and former director of undergraduate creative writing at Harvard University, Hyde teaches during the fall semesters at Kenyon College in Ohio. During the rest of the year he lives and writes in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Hyde’s books are all available in the U.K., The Gift and Trickster from Canongate and Common as Air from Union Books.