George Grant and C.S. Lewis, by Ron Dart (Friday Feature)

I keep meaning to highlight one of Canada’s most important public intellectuals, George Grant, and his connection to C.S. Lewis. I just never seem to get to the task so I will let Prof. Ron Dart lead us in that direction for this week’s Friday Feature.

George Grant was an intellectual gadfly, in conversation with the intellectual class in Canada and philosophically influential but whose conservative political leanings made the elite uncomfortable. He seemed to work well in that tension, arguing for a particular vision of Canadian nationalism and intellectual culture in the university. His own establishment of a department of religion at McMaster remains unique in Canada, and his Lament for a Nation (1965) is one of our most important works. I encountered Grant first through his essay collection, Technology and Empire (edited by Canadian poet Dennis Lee, author of Alligator Pie and the Fraggle Rock theme song). Intellectually challenging, stimulating for the curious, frequently offensive or problematic, the essays are breathtaking in scope and helped in my academic formation.

Grant frequently made media appearances, including the CBC’s Massey Lectures (in 1969–I have some doubts that a thinker like Grant would be given time like this on CBC today; perhaps the strange camps forming behind and against Jordan Peterson are evidence). He received the Order of Canada and was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Intriguingly, as part of Grant’s formation, he attended the Oxford Socratic Club, which was chaired by C.S. Lewis. Grant came from high intellectual stock in Canada, and found his way to Oxford to study law as a Rhodes scholar. Disturbed by the war and the failure (in his view) of the English neoliberal project, Grant turned to philosophy to explore his Christian faith.

Although he was very shy about talking about his faith as a Canadian intellectual, Grant’s religious perspective was important to his entire project of thought. This project was partly formed by C.S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man, as Ron Dart discusses in this video. Ron Dart’s name has been popping up for me recently, and I thought his short note on George Grant and C.S. Lewis captured an idea I haven’t managed to get to–despite links to Grant’s work brought up in reader comments on this blog. For a longer treatment, see Dart’s short paper, “The Orthodox Tradition and Canada’s Most Significant Public Philosopher: George Grant” (2012). Grant’s work is disturbing–not simply because he occasionally offends our comfortable ideas, but because he imagines dystopian aspects of the future while rejecting Orwell’s violent world built on radical change. In some aspects, Grant’s future is now.


About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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2 Responses to George Grant and C.S. Lewis, by Ron Dart (Friday Feature)

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    What a Grant Fest – thanks! (Ron Dart has all sorts of interesting looking videos and online articles – I should at least browse him, more!)


  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Watching a couple more in Ron Dart’s Anglican series has given me context for some details, here – it’d be enjoyable to discuss things with him, and I think we’d variously ‘cross swords’, but they seem worthwhile, and very much part of the Inklings-Grantian continuing discussion (so to put it).

    I also started enjoyably browsing Hugh Donald Forbes’ Dictionary of Canadian Biography entry on Grant, linked from the Grant Wikipedia article – it has some vivid details and quotations, and looks well worth reading in its entirety (though it’s full enough that that will take a while!).


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