on Russell Kirk’s “Ex Tenebris” & the Moral Imagination
Once upon a time, nothing engaged a Christmas audience quite like a ghost story. In Washington Irving’s “The Christmas Dinner,” it is the parson who tells some of the best uncanny stories during the winter season. Russell Kirk, fond of this tradition though it had gone out of fashion in the twentieth century, wrote a defense of the practice. It is not mere didacticism nor an unhealthy obsession with the grotesque that makes the uncanny appropriate at Yuletide gatherings, he averred; ghost stories “can be an instrument for the recovery of the moral order” (Essential Russell Kirk, 182). The practice might actually be more valuable at Christmas than during the closing week of October, when the typical neighborhood is festooned with ghouls and goblins.
Kirk understood this so well that he expended quite a bit of energy writing such stories. He makes his interest in the genre plain in his book, Enemies of the Permanent Things, where he writes, “Imagination, given time, does rule the world” (132). This may surprise those who more readily associate Kirk’s name with National Review or the books he published about America and conservatism. Yet he does not say that public policy, political influence, or social causes rule the world, but that imagination does. Even so, what does that have to do with ghost stories?
THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:
Sean C. Hadley teaches humane letters at Trinitas Christian School and the Baptist College of Florida. He has published works in FORMA Journal, The Imaginative Conservative, and The Hemingway Review. He and his wife have four children and attend Providence Church (CREC).
• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!
Transactions will be processed on a secure server.
Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.
OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)
Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.
more on literature from the online archives
more from the online archives
calling all readers
"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand
"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor