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UW Professor Publishes Book: ‘Why Humans Fear, Loathe and Love Insects’


December 4, 2013 — University of Wyoming Professor Jeff Lockwood published his ninth book, “The Infested Mind: Why Humans Fear, Loathe and Love Insects.”

Like his previous titles -- which variously explored the disappearance of locusts from the American frontier, the ethics of grasshopper extermination and the history of insects used as weapons of war -- “The Infested Mind” is a genre-bending narrative that integrates personal stories, literary writing and cutting-edge science into an investigation of human-insect relationships.

On why he chose to write about nature in a way that transcends the conventions of science writing and fuses memoir with scholarship, Lockwood says, “You want an author to have a voice, otherwise you have what's called a textbook -- and who would want to buy or read one of those unless they had to?”

“The Infested Mind” was inspired by an attack of insect-related panic Lockwood experienced while researching a grasshopper infestation in Whalen Canyon near Guernsey. The book explores the insect-human relationship through a series of questions about fear, anxiety, and disgust -- subjects being profoundly reconsidered in the field of contemporary psychology.

In preparing to write the book, Lockwood worked with UW master of fine arts student Ryan Ikeda to research the cutting edge of psychological and ecological scholarship. Lockwood also consulted psychology Professor Brett Deacon, head of the UW Anxiety Research Laboratory, to better understand the psychology of fear -- an essential aspect of the often uneasy human-insect bond.

Already garnering positive reviews, the book has been featured on Wisconsin Public Radio, in Popular Science magazine and The Atlantic Online, where a feature post by Lockwood, “How to Cultivate Disgust,” explores the roots of our complex reaction to the creepy and crawly among us.

Originally hired at UW in 1986 as an insect ecologist, Lockwood, the past three decades, has “metamorphosed” into a professor of natural sciences and humanities. He teaches nonfiction writing workshops in the UW Creative Writing MFA Program, as well as courses on environmental ethics and ecology in the UW Department of Philosophy and the Program in Ecology.

In 2002, he was awarded a Pushcart Prize for an essay on grasshoppers collected in “Grasshopper Dreaming: Reflections on Killing and Loving.” The following year, he won the John Burroughs Medal -- a prestigious award for outstanding writing in natural history -- for an essay on locusts published in Orion magazine.

For those interested in Lockwood’s exploration, but too squeamish to jump right into the book (there are photos), Lockwood, in coming months, will blog about fear and love of insects for Psychology Today magazine at www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-infested-mind.

“The Infested Mind” can be purchased through online retailers and at many retail outlets. Contact Lockwood at (307) 766-4260 or email lockwood@uwyo.edu.

Photo:
Jeff Lockwood

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