It’s rare to find a collection of essays that range intelligently over a broad array of subjects, are easily readable and engaging, and fully hold your interest for 238 pages. That’s what author Evan Lanning has managed to achieve with The Global and American Spirit.
Aristotle, Cicero, St. Augustine. The Constitution and the Anti-Federalists objections to it. Alexis de Toqueville. The controversy over Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. A fascinating survey of the American novel. How about philosophical perspectives in The Grapes of Wrath? Book reviews. An examination of Tolkien’s ideas.
Lanning seems comfortable and eminently knowledgeable in the worlds of American history, literature, politics, philosophy, and current events. Here are a few of the standout essays.
“Aristotle and Politics” discusses the Greek philosopher’s ideas on the three associations which serve as the basis of community – the household., the village, and the polis – and how they conflict with socialism (proving there’s nothing new under the sun; ancient Greece had its socialism proponents, too).
In “Cicero and De Oratore,” Lanning considers that convincing oratory doesn’t necessarily happen because of “rational argument, logical dialog, or elegant and adorned prose.” Convincing oratory happens through appeals to the passions and the emotions.
“Integrity and the Constitution” examines the argument between constitutionalist originalists and those who believe the Constitution should be a “living document.”
“The Jefferson Controversy: When Politics Meet History” views the Jefferson / Sally Hemmings issue through the lens of politics and delves into the actual evidence for Jefferson fathering children by his slave.
“The Continuity and Progress of the American Novel” studies how American literature has been shaped by culture, politics, religion, or some combination of the three. Lanning looks at Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, My Antonia by Willa Cather, The Sun Also Risesby Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, and Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor.
“Taking Sides in American History” asks, and answers, questions like, did the Great Society fail? Did rock and roll upend American family and social customs? Was the Americanization of the war in Vietnam inevitable? And should America remain a nation of immigrants?
And there’s much more.
Lanning is a field representative of the Leadership Institute, which provides training for conservatives in campaigns, fundraising, grassroots organizing, youth politics, and communications. He lives in Indiana.
The Global and American Spirit is a collection of insightful, well-written essays that directly and indirectly inform many of our contemporary social, economic, and political issues.
Top photograph by Tom Coe via Unsplash. Used with permission.