Thursday, January 13, 2011

A View of a Crucial Document

Jill Lepore, “The Commandments: The Constitution and Its Worshippers,” New Yorker, January 17, 2011, pp.70-76, provides an interesting examination of how a particular document has taken on symbolic significance in contemporary political debates. Citing evidence about how few Americans have read this document or possess any idea of what is in it [even though it is only 4400 words long], Lepore acknowledges that “Ye olde parchment serves as shorthand for everything old, real, durable, American, and true – a talisman held up against the uncertainties and abstractions of a meaningless, changeable, paperless age” (p. 72). She discusses the Constitution’s history as an archival artifact, how it been used and abused in debates, and how it often frames or shapes political discourse.

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