Writing and the Moral Imagination Workshop

This July, the Kirk Center held its first conference focused on “Writing and the Moral Imagination” for a select group of young professionals. The program brings together two themes central to the life and work of Russell Kirk: character and composition. Participants deepened their acquaintance with the chief habits of moral excellence, both the cardinal virtues and the theological virtues, and explored these virtues in direct relation to American education and effective, ethical prose. Over the course of three days, they focused not only on concepts but also on practical cases—both in their own writing and in the lives of influential leaders who have enacted key virtues in their careers. Daily writing workshops enriched their understanding of the moral imagination as a process that expresses what Pico della Mirandola called the “dignity of man.”

Dr. David Hein, Distinguished Teaching Fellow of the Russell Kirk Center and Senior Fellow at the George C. Marshall Foundation, led the sessions, beginning with a discussion based on readings from The Virtues: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press) and moving to illustrations from the lives of exemplars. He very kindly set aside time to meet individually with participants to mentor them on their writing projects. Each day included writing workshops and oral presentations, which participants found especially helpful. James Person, author of a biography of Russell Kirk, among other writings, gave a keynote presentation defining and expanding on the concept of the Moral Imagination. 

Comments from participants included the following:

“It was formative intellectually and spiritually and exceeded all expectations.”

“David Hein’s willingness to meet with and mentor us one-on-one was also really helpful.”

“Good chance to get some immediate feedback, which is rare for a writer.”

“Collaborative and intellectually challenging!”

“Excellent, warm, fun—can’t wait to come back.”

“Writing with a deadline and presentation in mind, in company with great peers and in such an excellent setting, was a truly special element of the seminar.”

“Presenting orally to peers was uniquely helpful, enjoyable, and inspiring. I hope to replicate this among my friends back in D.C.”

“It was also great to learn about the resources the Center offers.”

“I loved my experience here—thank you so much for starting this program.”

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