Bradley J. Birzer

Bradley J. Birzer

About Bradley J. Birzer

Bradley J. Birzer is the co-founder of, and Senior Contributor at, The Imaginative Conservative. He is the Russell Amos Kirk Chair in History at Hillsdale College and Fellow of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Dr. Birzer is author of In Defense of Andrew Jackson, Russell Kirk: American Conservative, American Cicero: The Life of Charles Carroll, Sanctifying the World: The Augustinian Life and Mind of Christopher Dawson, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-Earth, co-editor of The American Democrat and Other Political Writings by James Fenimore Cooper, and co-author of The American West.

Fate and Will in Tolkien’s “Beowulf”

By |2019-10-14T15:49:10-05:00October 15th, 2019|Categories: Beowulf, Beowulf Series, Bradley J. Birzer, Christianity, Imagination, Literature, Myth, Senior Contributors|

Arguably one of the finest stories in the Western Tradition, “Beowulf” concerns the advent of a hero and his timely end. Throughout, questions of fate, free will, good, and evil predominate. Most prominent, though, are the theological questions of will and grace, one pagan and the other Christian. In 1926, when merely a thirty-four [...]

St. Augustine and J.R.R. Tolkien

By |2019-10-14T10:03:55-05:00October 13th, 2019|Categories: Bradley J. Birzer, J.R.R. Tolkien, Literature, Myth, Senior Contributors, St. Augustine, StAR, Timeless Essays|

As with St. Augustine as the barbarians tore through Rome’s gate on August 24, 410, at midnight, J.R.R. Tolkien looked out over a ruined world: a world on one side controlled by ideologues, and, consequently, a world of the Gulag, the Holocaust camps, the Killing fields, and total war; on the other: a world [...]

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth

By |2019-10-12T14:11:46-05:00October 11th, 2019|Categories: Books, Bradley J. Birzer, Imagination, J.R.R. Tolkien, Myth, Senior Contributors|

Myth, J.R.R. Tolkien thought, can convey the sort of profound truth that is intransigent to description or analysis in terms of facts and figures. But, Tolkien admitted, myth can be dangerous if it remains pagan. Therefore, one must sanctify it. As an artist, a scholar, and a mythmaker, Tolkien gave us a glimpse of [...]

The Permanence of Russell Kirk

By |2019-10-14T12:29:01-05:00October 7th, 2019|Categories: Bradley J. Birzer, Christian Humanism, Conservatism, Russell Kirk, Senior Contributors, The Conservative Mind, Western Civilization, Western Tradition|

With the phenomenal success of The Conservative Mind—selling over a million copies during the three decades after its initial release—Kirk worried that “conservatism” might prove to be a hollow answer for the post-war world. Afterall, he reasoned, conservatism must, by necessity, be highly subjective, centered around a specific time and place, even while embracing [...]

Russell Kirk Reconsidered

By |2019-10-12T14:19:30-05:00October 4th, 2019|Categories: Bradley J. Birzer, Conservatism, Russell Kirk, Senior Contributors, The Conservative Mind, Western Civilization, Western Tradition|

Russell Kirk gave voice to a myriad of persons, personalities, and ideas circulating in the decade after the Second World War, just as the West was trying to understand what it stood for, rather than what it stood against. The latter was easy. Communism and fascism were evil. But, what exactly did the West stand [...]

The Earliest Days of the Inklings

By |2019-09-30T23:36:32-05:00September 30th, 2019|Categories: Bradley J. Birzer, C.S. Lewis, Imagination, Inklings, J.R.R. Tolkien, Literature, Senior Contributors|

J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis talked, dined, drank, and walked together. And then, other friendships began to form around this critical one. Some arrived by chance, some by circumstance, and others by design. Eventually, they adopted a name: “The Inklings.” With the friendship of Tolkien and Lewis having grown into something almost preternaturally solid, [...]

“Out of the Silent Planet”: A Retrospective

By |2019-09-26T22:52:31-05:00September 26th, 2019|Categories: Books, Bradley J. Birzer, C.S. Lewis, Christianity, Imagination, Literature, Senior Contributors|

C.S. Lewis’s “Out of the Silent Planet” presents within the envelope of science fiction a moving story that considers the complexity of human nature and its relationship with the Creator. It would not be an exaggeration to claim that Lewis’s “Space Trilogy” made science fiction respectable, elevating it from what many had perceived as [...]

From Pagan Heroism to Christian Alliance: Tolkien’s “Beowulf”

By |2019-10-05T09:54:55-05:00September 24th, 2019|Categories: Beowulf, Books, Bradley J. Birzer, Great Books, J.R.R. Tolkien, Myth, Poetry, Senior Contributors|

J.R.R. Tolkien argued that while Christianity gave the heroes a new point upon which to focus, the enemies of the heathen gods remained, too, the enemies of the Christian God. Beowulf, by challenging all that is spawned in Hell, has, by default, become the ally of all that destined to Heaven. Inducted into the [...]

Russell Kirk’s Unfinished Justice

By |2019-09-22T21:27:09-05:00September 22nd, 2019|Categories: Aristotle, Bradley J. Birzer, Conservatism, History, Plato, Russell Kirk, Senior Contributors, Timeless Essays|

Russell Kirk thought that because justice is rooted in nature and because in its perfection transcends all time and space, one can innately observe virtue in the actions of wise men. Such observation of those we admire might be the best teacher in our current day, serving as a reminder of what has always [...]

Who Was the American in 1775?

By |2019-09-20T21:24:49-05:00September 20th, 2019|Categories: American Founding, American Republic, Bradley J. Birzer, History, Senior Contributors|

The Americans of the Revolution wrote about the new man who leaves behind his old prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the mode of life he embraces, and whose labors would change the world. But, one must ask, to what extent was this true? Just exactly how new was the American of 1775? [...]

Fortitude Made Manifest: J. Michael Straczynski’s “Becoming Superman”

By |2019-09-17T21:14:43-05:00September 17th, 2019|Categories: Books, Bradley J. Birzer, Imagination, Senior Contributors|

Author J. Michael Straczynski is nothing if not fortitude made manifest. Without proper parents and without any respect for normal cultural and religious authorities, JMS found his moral grounding in the fictional character, Superman/Clark Kent. When confronted with bullying or with a moral dilemma, JMS would consider the question: What would Superman Do? It almost [...]

“Secrets of Blackmoor: The True History of Dungeons & Dragons”

By |2019-09-15T15:14:12-05:00September 13th, 2019|Categories: Bradley J. Birzer, Culture, Film, Senior Contributors|

A fascinating new documentary, "Secrets of Blackmoor" tells the story of the inventors of "Dungeons & Dragons," the role-playing phenomenon that transformed gaming into something organic, non-mechanical, and deeply imaginative. When the fantasy-role playing game Dungeons & Dragons first appeared in 1974 as a full product, it listed two authors: Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. [...]

1619, Slavery, the Founding, and All That

By |2019-09-08T16:43:37-05:00September 8th, 2019|Categories: American Founding, American Republic, Bradley J. Birzer, Senior Contributors, Slavery|

For nearly fifty years, we have taught American children that the three greatest determinants in history are race, class, and gender. Virtue is scoffed at; “Great Men” are mocked; and free will is ignored. Should we be shocked—do we even have the right to be shocked—that our press, our culture, and our educators are obsessed [...]

Tacitus and the Germans

By |2019-09-06T22:53:48-05:00September 6th, 2019|Categories: Bradley J. Birzer, Conservatism, History, Senior Contributors, Western Odyssey Series|

One of our earliest examinations and appraisals of the Germanic peoples—those tall, blonde or red-haired, light-eyed barbarians to the North—comes from the Roman republican, Tacitus. Tacitus, to be sure, wrote with distinct bias. He wanted to show the Germans as natural republicans while implying that the Romans had lost their republican simplicity and manners [...]