Sunday, October 29, 2023

Michael Lusztig's "The Republican Hero"

Michael Lusztig is Professor of Political Science at Southern Methodist University. He is the author of The Culturalist Challenge to Liberal Republicanism, among other books.

Lusztig applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Republican Hero: From Homer to Batman, and reported the following:
Unfortunately, my book fails the Page 99 Test.

The only full paragraph on page 99 reads:
Even considering Urban’s injunction that crusaders be motivated solely by devotion, such Manichean justification failed to alleviate all churchmen’s concerns about the sanctity of violence in the name of God. Difficult to ignore was the thuggish brutality practiced by bands of knightly marauders, more piratical than pious, whose primary interests in taking the cross involved plunder under the protective camouflage of good Christian cause (Kaeuper 2009, 11-17). And while it may have been Pope Gregory VII’s assertion that sin was an inevitable consequence of just warfare, others pursued more high-minded means of reconciling crusading and Christianity (Kaeuper 2009, 13). Some clerics sought to constrain martial exuberance by playing upon the ubiquitous medieval fear of posthumous fate, extracting premiums in piety for what Eamon Duffy calls “post-mortem fire insurance” (quoted in Kaeuper 2009, 18). But takers of the cross often tended towards piety on their own terms, convincing themselves that acquisition of wealth, honor and other worldly benefits enjoyed inoculation from sin so long as such bounty was but a happy externality of the pursuit of spiritual justice (Kaeuper 2009, 20).
As I say, this page fails the test. It speaks to an example of Christian heroism, but that is only a small element of the book.

As a book on political theory it is pretty hard for one page to capture the essence of the book. The overall tenor is to rebut the oft-heard claim that we live in a post-heroic age. The book identifies four hero-types, each of which could be considered central to the republicanism of a particular age. My book suggests that unlike previous ages, the modern age balances all four of these hero-types and hence could be considered not the least heroic age, but the most.

As to why this page is interesting, I guess it depends on how interested one is in medieval Christianity. The chivalric age inspired a heroic archetype – the knight errant – whose submission to lady love and fidelity to courtly (unconsummated) love served as a metaphor for submission to God and postlapsarian man’s unrealized reconciliation with God. At the same time, the chivalric knight fired the popular imagination creating a hero of romance literature – sort of a Christian superhero of his time who spoke to the imperative not for truth, justice and the American way, but rather loyalty, social order and faith.
Learn more about The Republican Hero at the State University of New York Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue