Some Food We Could Not Eat

Author

Hyde, Lewis

Genre

Article/Essay

Overview

In his book, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, Lewis Hyde, a literary critic and translator of Spanish poetry, focuses on creative power and the notion of art as a gift—both to the artist and to the world. In the chapter from this book entitled "Some Things We Could Not Eat," Hyde emphasizes two very important and overlapping features of a gift. First, while "there are other forms of property that stand still... the gift keeps going." Second, "a gift must always be used up, consumed, eaten." The key distinction, then, is between market exchange, which "has no equilibrium or stasis," and a gift, in which "there is momentum, and the weight shifts from body to body." In making decisions about our relation to property, we choose "whether to keep the gift moving or to be eaten with it."

Full Text*

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Source

The Perfect Gift, ed. Amy Kass (Indiana University Press, 2002).

Type

Reading

Themes

Connection and RelationshipDiversity and DifferenceGiving and ReceivingIdentity and Community

Big Questions

What makes it possible for us to connect to others? What gets in the way?Why is connection important? What does it enable? What does it impede?How do we connect with those who are different from us?How do we learn to have dialogue across difference? What does it look like?How do we know what a gift achieves?What does good giving require?What makes a good gift?When I give, what do I expect in return? What do I receive?How do we define who we are?How do you understand your own identity? How does it relate to the communities you are a part of?

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. What is the speaker's distinction between the “giver” and “keeper”?
  2. What does the speaker say about gifts? Do you agree?
  3. What do you think of the line, “the only essential thing is this: the gift must always move”?
  4. What do you think more important: the giver’s reactions to a gift or the receiver’s reactions and reception? Both?
  5. How does our society define a gift? How do you?
  6. How do we know what a gift achieves?
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