By Garrett Epps

ISBN-10: 0199974748

ISBN-13: 9780199974740

In 1987, E.L. Doctorow celebrated the Constitution's bicentennial through interpreting it. "It is 5 thousand phrases lengthy yet reads like fifty thousand," he stated. exotic felony pupil Garrett Epps--himself an award-winning novelist--disagrees. it is approximately 7,500 phrases. And Doctorow "missed a great deal of excessive rhetoric, many literary tropes, or even a hint of, if now not wit, at the least irony," he writes. americans might venerate the structure, "but all too seldom is it read."

In American Epic, Epps takes us via a whole analyzing of the Constitution--even the "boring" parts--to in attaining an appreciation of its strength and a holistic realizing of what it says. during this e-book he seeks to not offer a definitive interpretation, yet to hear the language and reflect on its which means. He attracts on 4 modes of studying: scriptural, felony, lyric, and epic. The Constitution's first 3 phrases, for instance, sound spiritual--but Epps unearths them to be extra aspirational than prayer-like. "Prayers are addressed to an individual . . . both a mundane king or a divine lord, and nice care is taken to call the addressee. . . . This does the opposite. The speaker is 'the people,' the phrases addressed to the realm at large." He turns the second one modification right into a poem to light up its ambiguity. He notices oddities and omissions. The structure lays out ideas for presidential appointment of officials, for instance, yet no longer elimination. should still the Senate approve each one firing? Can it withdraw its "advice and consent" and strength a resignation? And he demanding situations himself, as visible in his astounding dialogue of the security of Marriage Act (DOMA) in mild of Article four, which orders states to provide "full religion and credits" to the acts of different states.

Wry, unique, and impressive, American Epic is a scholarly and literary travel de strength.

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Additional info for American Epic: Reading the U.S. Constitution

Sample text

In the beginning, the nation is without form and void. There is darkness; then someone speaks in our voice: Let there be law. Article I A Tale of Two Cities “We the people” have spoken. Now it is the Framers’ turn to speak as themselves. Article I is the longest and most complex in the Constitution, and in many ways it is the Philadelphia Framers’ best work: intricate, self-confident, and far less tentative than their discussions of the presidency in Article II and the judiciary in Article III.

The words, “we the people of the states” would instead have been archaic on the day of publication and would emphasize to any contemporary reader the historical distance between the Framing and today. Whatever impulse led the drafters to make the change has led to profound consequences, certainly in rhetoric and probably in politics. It was an inspired act of ventriloquism. But it was more than pretense. It was aspirational. The Constitution is not a prayer—prayers are addressed to someone, a superior, either an earthly king or a divine lord, and great care is taken to name the addressee and less to characterize the speaker.

This makes the leader of the House a constitutional officer—probably the most important in the legislative department. The Senate was to be led by the vice president, the first reference to that office. The vice president, unlike the Speaker, was not chosen by the members of the House he would lead. ) Article I also lays out the responsibility in cases of impeachment. The House has “sole Power of Impeachment,” meaning that it alone can vote to require a trial of the impeached official on charges of the House’s choice; the Senate has “sole Power to try” impeachments, meaning that the Senate sits as a court after the House has brought a successful impeachment.

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American Epic: Reading the U.S. Constitution by Garrett Epps

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