Russell Amos Kirk on the Moral Imagination

In the spring of 1989, videographer Ken Martinek and I made the trip to Piety Hill to interview Russell about the moral imagination (as first conceived by Edmund Burke and expanded by Dr. Kirk). This concept had held attraction for me ever since I first read his books. I had the privilege and honor of studying with Dr. Kirk for my doctorate (awarded in 1984) in creative writing and literary criticism.

We showed up with a trusty 3/4 inch Sony, mics, a tripod…and no lights. (I didn’t have them at the time.) So the choices were to shoot inside with available lighting or outside with the wind in the hair and the trucks on the road. For good or ill, we chose the latter.

That blowing hair sometimes forced Ken to push in a little, so we see LOTS of Russell’s face.

I’m sure we weren’t the most welcome sight that day. Dr. Kirk had been up much of the night before finishing a project (he often kept those hours) and he had lots more work to do. But Russell was nothing if not unfailingly kind. He would occasionally say aloud that he didn’t suffer fools gladly, but…he suffered us nonetheless. In the days when I had served as an assistant in the library I’m sure I gave him plenty of pause about just that. One time I brought my luggable KayPro 64, an early “portable” computer. I was going to show Russell how easily he could make revisions. Well, with a typing skill of more than 120 words per minute and a photographic memory, he really didn’t need such a device. At the conclusion of the experiment with the computer he said: “Thank you very much, David Schock, for showing me this damned machine.” And away it went.

Here, more or less, is the entire interview with Russell, from which we abstracted the bites that went into the film The Moral Imagination of Russell Kirk.

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