Perhaps no other individual (or person, for the benefit of the Kirkian insider) was more responsible for resuscitating intellectual conservatism back to life in the mid Twentieth century than Russell Kirk. Today, Kirk’s efforts to recover and conserve the “Permanent Things” lives on at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal. Co-founder and Vice Chair of the Russell Kirk Center, Jeff Nelson, joins Saving Elephants host Josh Lewis to explore the legacy of Russell Kirk and its lasting impact on the conservative movement today.
About Jeff Nelson
Jeff Nelson co-founded the Kirk Center with Annette Kirk and is currently Vice Chairman of the Center’s Board of Trustees. He served in 1986 and again in 1989 as Dr. Kirk’s personal assistant.
Dr. Nelson is Executive Vice President of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (Wilmington, Delaware). He also served as president of the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts (Merrimack, NH). He received his B.A. at the University of Detroit, an M.A. at Yale University Divinity School, and was awarded his Ph.D. in American History at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Dr. Nelson founded ISI Books, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s now nationally recognized publishing imprint, in 1993. Under his direction, more than 110 books were published. During that time he also edited two respected journals of thought and opinion: The Intercollegiate Review and The University Bookman, and is publisher of Studies in Burke and His Time. He also is senior fellow of both the International G. K. Chesterton Institute (Toronto, ON) and the Centre for the Study of Faith and Culture in Oxford, England; and he is secretary of the Edmund Burke Society of America.
Dr. Nelson has edited two book collections: Redeeming the Time by Russell Kirk, and Perfect Sowing: Reflections of a Bookman by Henry Regnery; he co-edited an award-winning treasury of the historian John Lukacs’ writings entitled Remembered Past; and was project director of the popular national college guide, Choosing the Right College: The Whole Truth About America’s Top Schools. Dr. Nelson was featured in a New York Times front-page news article about a major reference work he co-edited, American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia; and he is series editor of The Library of Modern Thinkers. Jeff Nelson is a frequent and popular guest on radio and television talk shows across the country.
You can follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffOttoNelson
About The Russell Kirk Center
The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal is located in Kirk’s ancestral village of Mecosta, Michigan. It is at its heart a residential research and study center, a community of fellow travelers that lives together in the Center’s six cottages, and gathers in the Kirk Library of some 15,000 books and in the family house, where ideas and community join in what Dr. Kirk used to describe, borrowing from Tolkien, as the Last Homely House. Like his hero Edmund Burke, Kirk is a perennial thinker, anti-materialist and a Christian humanist. At the Kirk Center and in the writing of Kirk, generations connect, community and tradition live, the politics of prudence and humility extolled, and imagination, religion, and key societal beliefs, practices, and institutions studied with a view toward cultural renewal. Inspired by Russell Kirk, the Kirk Center cherishes the Permanent Things as the best way to enliven the conservative mind and to re-enchant our world.
And so I hope listeners of this podcast will visit the Kirk Center website, kirkcenter.org. Sign up for the Center’s newsletter, Permanent Things, and find great classic Kirk content regularly curated by Cecilia Kirk Nelson. Finally, one of the premier conservative book review publications, The University Bookman, posts new book reviews each weekend and has its own weekly e-newsletter that features reviews and interesting content from other groups and podcasts, including the occasional Saving Elephants episode.
Here are four of Jeff Nelson’s book recommendations on Russell Kirk:
First, James Person’s Russell Kirk: A Critical Biography of a Conservative Mind is a wonderful introduction to Kirk and the key areas of his thought.
Second, as mentioned, Bradley Birzer’s Russell Kirk: American Conservative is a thoroughly researched standard biographical treatment that is both insightful and lively.
Third, Gerald Russello’s The Post Modern Imagination of Russell Kirk is one of the best analyses of Kirk’s thought and the role that both ideas and imagination play in it.
Finally, for a discussion and application of Kirk’s understanding of the Moral Imagination, especially as a kind of process or mode of knowledge, through the prism of great children’s literature, Vigen Guroian’s Tending the Heart of Virtue is especially good.