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American Epic: Reading the U.S. Constitution (Paperback)
  • American Epic: Reading the U.S. Constitution (Paperback)
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American Epic: Reading the U.S. Constitution (Paperback)

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£17.99
Paperback 304 Pages / Published: 19/02/2015
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In 1987, E.L. Doctorow celebrated the Constitution's 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. It's 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 Constitution's 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.

Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 9780199389711
Number of pages: 304
Weight: 398 g
Dimensions: 234 x 162 x 20 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
Epps has created the ideal study guide for civics and political science classes, an intelligent and provocative tour through the fascinatingly complicated, vitally important blueprint of the United States. * Publishers Weekly (starred review) *
Garrett Epps has done the impossible. He's made reading every Article in the United States Constitution fun and exciting. * Phillip Margolin, New York Times bestselling author of Sleight of Hand *
This is an astonishing, revelatory book. By reading the constitution line-by-line, Garrett Epps shows what it actually says and doesn't say-and in the process strips away two centuries of imputed 'meaning.' His mastery of history, literary analysis, and the law make American Epic an unforgettable book. The reader comes away as if from a first encounter with our constitution-with a new sense of what the founders said and meant. This book could only have been written by someone who combines Epps's experience as a novelist, journalist and scholar of constitutional law. * David Ignatius, Washington Post columnist and author of Bloodmoney *
The best tour guides love the journeys on which they take their charges, and Garrett Epps loves the Constitution of the United States. American Epic makes it clear that Epps was a novelist before he was a law professor-not because he makes stuff up, but because he appreciates the scriptural, lyrical and, of course, epic readings of the document no less than the legal. Learning about our Constitution with Epps turns an honorable civic duty into an act of sheer joy. * E. J. Dionne Jr., author of Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent *
Garrett Epps-law professor, journalist, novelist, and poet-surrounds the Constitution of the United States with all four of his vocations. He moves seamlessly between them in his close reading of the text. The result is not so much an interpretation as poignant recognition of the puzzles that make the country's formative document a lasting work of art. * Robert A. Ferguson, George Edward Woodberry Professor of Law, Literature, and Criticism, Columbia University, author of Alone in America and The Trial in American Life *
With American Epic, Epps has written another masterpiece. Epps takes us on a wondrous journey through the Constitution, exploring every word of the remarkable document that so many venerate but few actually read. Even the most devoted student of the Constitution will find much to learn. American Epic is a revealing, thought-provoking, and wonderfully written examination of America's foundational text. * Adam Winkler, Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law, author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America *
Epps reveals, in terse yet marvelously supple prose, what can be learned through a close reading of the entirety of the United States Constitution. It should be on any list of gifts for anyone thinking of going to law school-or, more importantly, for any American simply seeking a better understanding of our foundational document. * Sanford Levinson, W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair, University of Texas, author of Framed: America's 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance *
Drawing on his skills as novelist, poet, law professor, and journalist, Garrett Epps leads us on a fabulous journey through the text of the American Constitution, at once both entertaining and deeply serious. You could not ask for a better tour guide. * Jack M. Balkin, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment, Yale Law School, author of Living Originalism *

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