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Earth Talk Video: The Art of the Trickster

With Lewis Hyde and Martin Shaw

The mythological trickster figures are most at home on the road or at the twilight edge of town. They are the consummate (and sacred) boundary-crossers, slipping through keyholes, breaching walls, subverting defense systems. Always out to satisfy their inordinate appetites, lying, cheating, and stealing, tricksters are a great bother to have around, but paradoxically they are also indispensable heroes of culture. In North America, Coyote taught the race how to catch salmon, sing, and shoot arrows. In West Africa, Eshu introduced the art of divination so that suffering humans might know the purposes of heaven. In Greece, Hermes the Thief invented the art of sacrifice, the trick of making fire, and even language itself.

Lewis Hyde's lecture on the art of the trickster focuses on how, in mythology, these figures play with the joints of creation, sometimes destroying settled life by disjointing it entirely but more often keeping the world lively by moving its joints around or simply lubricating them. Hyde reads the trickster myths as portraits of the disruptive side of human imagination and uses them to help us understand the creative work of more modern figures as diverse as Frederick Douglass, Allen Ginsberg, Marcel Duchamp, and John Cage.

Mythologist and storyteller Dr. Martin Shaw alongside with Lewis tells stories of Wolverine, Fox and any number of shameless denizens of sacred disruption. Filled with humour and dynamism, these tales stretch from the very creation of the earth to something that happened on the way to work this morning.

Recorded on Wednesday 10th May 2017.