Writing & The National Interest

As the United States undergoes transition from one President who advocated the American national interest to a successor who emphasizes global responsibility, we can look to fiction—novels—for leaders, “heroes” even, that are invisible in American politics. 

We need “heroes”–even imagined Epic Heroes.

“The epic hero starts out as an ordinary person, contemporary with his time. However, as the story unfolds, the epic hero becomes more apparent. He’s noted for quick-thinking, selflessness and/ or endurance. While the epic hero is usually on a physical journey, his inner journey is just as interesting to explore. When this hero comes face to face with evil, he must first fight the inner battle.”

A few heroes in 20th century novels come to mind.

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 Secretary of State who once had been a member of the Communist Party. 

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 an “epic 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, I asked some of my conservative colleagues who have written novels to address the need for good story telling and engage them in a Zoom discussion of their novels.

I hoped 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 1939 to 1962 a group of Oxford University scholars interested in writing narrative fiction met at a drinking establishment in Oxford and came to be known as the “Inkling Group.”  There they read passages of fiction they were writing in addition to teaching classes at Oxford University. Some members of the 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 All

Hallows’ 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   

Lord David Cecil’s Library Looking Glass, appeared in 1975

Unlike Oxford University in the 1940s and early post-WW II years, higher education in America today is dominated by Progressives just as French and Spanish universities are home to a variety of ideologies. That makes it impossible for revival of the Inklings at a college here or in Western Europe where like-minded scholars of traditional culture meet to discuss culture and politics.

Even if we wanted, there just aren’t enough of us in one place.

As I observed in a July 2019 essay in Modern Age circumstance in Spain in the 1930s are similar to conditions in the United States today and that has ominous implications for intellectual culture and politics in 21st century America.

To find out what other scholars think of this, American Academy of Distance Learning invited five scholar/novelists (plus the Academy’s President) to discuss their novels and other works of narrative fiction are representative of traditional Christian culture and to examine how epic Heroes act to solve divisions afflicting civic culture today.   

Narrative fiction and Epic Heroes.

Dr. Richard Bishirjian, Thomas Moore, Dr. Claes Ryn,  Raymond Keating, John Hood and Allen Mendenhall will discuss American culture, politics and the culture of the West in relation to the writing of fiction.

Donations in support of this effort are tax exempt and each donor of $100 will be sent an inscribed copy of one novel of his or her choice. Visit http://www.academydl.com/donate to make a donation by PayPal or by credit card.