November 18, 2013

The writer Lewis Hyde, our latest Oracle contributor.


Very early on Friday, Nov. 15, we (Anna + Samantha) left Beverly for the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University. Our destination: an Oracle interview with Lewis Hyde, an essayist, translator, and cultural critic with a particular interest in the public life of the imagination, who is currently a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute, and — a day-long symposium on smart clothes. Why smart clothes? Well, the Beverly Oracle will be designed with a special glass called “smart glass”, which can change its state from translucent to opaque. We’re interested in materials of the future and how they can be used in new ways, so smart clothes technologies are connected to what we’ve been researching for our structure here in Beverly.

We soon arrived in Cambridge and walked through the pristine Radcliffe yard to the site of the symposium. What a mind-blowing line-up at the symposium: in the first panel a researcher discussed the possibility of clothing inspired by nature that could change color and texture, while another is creating flexible body armor made of interlocking plates, based on years of research about a rare armored fish with ceramic scales. Other researchers discovered a way to use nano-technology to make water-resistant cloth, as well as fabric that can emit light. Another researcher is seeking to create lighter battle dress uniforms for soldiers and separate carrying mechanisms for their equipment. After lunch we watched a panel on other inventions, including a pelvic belt that will prevent first responders from losing bone marrow after gamma ray exposure in nuclear disasters. We then had to miss a few sessions in order to meet with the writer Lewis Hyde for his Oracle interview.

On the third floor of the Radcliffe Institute we found the perfect quiet spot for the interview with Lewis Hyde, who is at work on a new book, “A Primer for Forgetting”, an interdisciplinary exploration of the beneficial uses of forgetfulness. The work draws from mythology (e.g., Orphic instructions to the dead), history (e.g., Ernest Renan’s reflections on nationhood), politics (e.g., South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission), aesthetics (e.g., Marcel Duchamp’s praise of artistic self-forgetfulness), psychology (e.g., therapeutic approaches to memories of trauma), and more (e.g., reflections on a family member’s dementia). Fascinating work. At the end of our interview (which will be available shortly as a podcast), Lewis agreed to become a contributor to the Beverly Oracle and promised us an answer by mail.

We’re absolutely thrilled to include Lewis Hyde in the Beverly Oracle, truly excited. What answer will he give us? After the interview we went back to the symposium for the last presentation, in which a media design professor from MIT discussed using 3D printing to create orthopedic clothing, among other things. Each product is designed to act like a second skin, while also giving the wearer the utmost support needed. When the symposium concluded we attended the adjacent reception and poster session (not before a quick picture on the steps of the Institute, above), in order to see what junior researchers and their students have been working on in the field of smart clothing. After hearing from these creative young minds and after the sun had already set, we headed back to Beverly. Another exciting day for the Oracle project.

Special thanks to Lewis Hyde for welcoming us so warmly and agreeing to become a contributor to the Beverly Oracle. Here is more information about him:

Born in Boston in 1945, Lewis Hyde is best known for his book “The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property” (Random House, 1983), a work that illuminates and defends the noncommercial portion of artistic practice. His much reprinted essay “Alcohol and Poetry: John Berryman and the Booze Talking” (1975) grew out of his experiences as an alcoholism counselor. He has also worked as an electrician and a carpenter to support himself while writing. His edition of the selected poems of the Nobel Prize-winning Spanish writer Vicente Aleixandre was published by Harper & Row in 1979. He has edited the essays of Thoreau and a volume of critical responses to Ginsberg’s poetry. Milkweed Editions has published a book of his poems, “This Error is the Sign of Love”. Another book about art and culture, “Trickster Makes This World”, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1998.

His most recent book is “Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010), a defense of our “cultural commons” — that vast store of ideas, inventions, and works of art that we have inherited from the past and that continue to enrich us in the present.

A MacArthur Fellow and a former director of undergraduate creative writing at Harvard University, Lewis Hyde teaches creative writing at Kenyon College.

Oracle intern Samantha Wuestman with artist Anna Schuleit Haber visiting Lewis Hyde at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard.


PS: This past week The Beverly Oracle added a new intern to our team, Zach deWitt. Click here to read more: