Synopses & Reviews
Common as Air offers a stirring defense of our cultural commons, that vast store of art and ideas 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,” Lewis Hyde turns to Americas Founding Fathers—men such as Adams, Madison, and Jefferson—in search of other ways to imagine the fruits of human wit and imagination. What he discovers is a rich tradition in which knowledge was assumed to be a commonwealth, not a private preserve.
For the founders, democratic self-governance itself demanded open and easy access to ideas. So did the growth of creative communities such as that of eighteenth-century science. And so did the flourishing of public persons, the very actors whose “civic virtue” brought the nation into being.
In this lively, carefully argued, and well-documented book, Hyde brings the past to bear on present matters, shedding fresh light on everything from the Human Genome Project to Bob Dylans musical roots. Common as Air allows us to stand on the shoulders of Americas revolutionary giants and thus to see beyond todays narrow debates over cultural ownership. What it reveals is nothing less than a vision of how to reclaim the commonwealth of art and ideas that we were meant to inherit.
Suspicious of the current idea that all creative work is "intellectual property," Hyde turns to America's Founding Fathers--men like Adams, Madison, and Jefferson--in search of other ways to imagine the fruits of human wit and imagination.
About the Author
Lewis Hyde is the author of The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, This Error Is the Sign of Love, and Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art (FSG, 1998). A MacArthur Fellow and former director of undergraduate creative writing at Harvard University, Hyde 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 a faculty associate at Harvards Berkman Center for Internet and Society.