Novelists & American Culture

As the United States undergoes transition from one President who advocated the American national interest to a successor who appeals to America’s “Internationalist” responsibilities, the Academy asks if we can look to narrative fiction—novels—for heroic leaders who may inspire hope that more reasonable times may return. 

Access a discussion about writing novels by five political conservatives!

A hero starts out as an ordinary person. He’s ambitious but his lack of self-importance is apparent. We see him commence a physical journey as interesting as his inner journey. He encounters opposition, personal tragedy and even evil, but he fights a spiritual and a physical battle and is victorious.  

A few heroes in 20th century novels come to mind who take courageous stands.

Allen Drury’s first novel Advise and Consent, features the dogged effort of Senator Seabright Cooley of South Carolina to block the nomination of a former communist from becoming a U.S. Secretary of State. 

Professor Tom Kemme writes that “Drury believed that the Soviet Union led an international totalitarian communist movement whose ultimate goal was world domination and that communists were willing to achieve that goal by whatever moral, immoral, or amoral means worked, including propaganda, lies, subversion, intimidation, infiltration, betrayal, and violence. A Drury thesis was that American liberalism contributed to communism’s incremental success in its war against American democratic capitalism.” 

Another example of a Hero is Jack Ryan in Tom Clancy’s Patriot Games (1987), Clear and Present Danger (1989), and The Sum of All Fears (1991).

In a search to find other novelists who write about American politics from the perspective of Tom Clancy or Allen Drury, it occurred to me to ask some scholars who are political conservatives and who were inspired to write novels and engage them in a discussion of their novels.

I hope to revive the practice of talking about important things from the perspective of narrative fiction as occurred more than eighty years ago at Oxford University.

From 1930 to 1962, a group of Oxford University scholars met in a drinking establishment known as “Inkling” where they read passages of from works of fiction they were writing.

Members of the Inkling group were C.S. Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, Charles Williams, War in Heaven (1930), Descent into Hell (1937), and AllHallows’ Eve (1945), Owen Barfield, The Silver Trumpet, Roger Lancelyn Green, Luck of Troy, set during the Trojan War, and The Land of the Lord High Tiger, Adam Fox, “Old King Coel, and Lord David Cecil’s Library Looking Glass that appeared in 1975

Unlike Oxford University in the 1940s and early post-WW II years, higher education in America is dominated by a “Progressive” ideology that makes it impossible to form a group of “Inklings” at a college where scholars of traditional culture meet to discuss culture and politics. To find out why, the American Academy of Distance Learning invited four scholars and the Academy’s President to examine how fictional Heroes may address divisions afflicting American culture today.  

Allen Mendenhall, Thomas Moore, Claes Ryn, Richard Bishirjian and John Hood.

Please access a summary of their discussion by clicking here