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    American Epic: Reading the U.S. Constitution

    By: Garrett Epps

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    $23.99
     
     
    ISBN
    9780199974757
    Date Released
    Binding
    eBook
     
     

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    Description
    In 1987, E.L. Doctorow celebrated the Constitutions bicentennial by reading it. It is five thousand words long but reads like fifty thousand, he said. Distinguished legal scholar Garrett Epps--himself an award-winning novelist--disagrees. Its about 7,500 words. And Doctorow missed a good deal of high rhetoric, many literary tropes, and even a trace of, if not wit, at least irony, he writes. Americans may venerate the Constitution, but all too seldom is it read. In American Epic, Epps takes us through a complete reading of the Constitution--even the boring parts--to achieve an appreciation of its power and a holistic understanding of what it says. In this book he seeks not to provide a definitive interpretation, but to listen to the language and ponder its meaning. He draws on four modes of reading: scriptural, legal, lyric, and epic. The Constitutions first three words, for example, sound spiritual--but Epps finds them to be more aspirational than prayer-like. Prayers are addressed to someone . . . either an earthly king or a divine lord, and great care is taken to name the addressee. . . . This does the reverse. The speaker is the people, the words addressed to the world at large. He turns the Second Amendment into a poem to illuminate its ambiguity. He notices oddities and omissions. The Constitution lays out rules for presidential appointment of officers, for example, but not removal. Should the Senate approve each firing? Can it withdraw its advice and consent and force a resignation? And he challenges himself, as seen in his surprising discussion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in light of Article 4, which orders states to give full faith and credit to the acts of other states. Wry, original, and surprising, American Epic is a scholarly and literary tour de force.

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