The Making of Americans, the Teaching of English, and the Future of Culture Studies

Spivak, Gayatri C.

I was interested to find that, although "Constitutional Convention," "constitutional monarchy," and "Constitution of the United States" were three items listed under "What literate Americans know" in Professor E. D. Hirsch's provocative book Cultural Literacy, the Constitution was not an index entry. In other words, constitutional matters did not form part of Hirsch's own thinking in the making of his argument. There is nothing in his index between "Conservatism" and "Constructive Hypothesis." It is my opinion that, if one is going to speak for or plan for that complicated thing called an "American," one must think of his or her relationship to the Constitution. In this part of my paper, I consider the argument of the brilliant reinterpretation of the Constitution in Professor Bruce Ackerman's forthcoming book Discover the Constitution. Ackerman's understanding of the Constitution is dualist and exceptionalist. The dualism is between normal everyday politics where We the People are not much involved, and the great exceptional moments in political practice--constitutional politics -where We the People are mobilized and involved in the process of change through higher lawmaking.

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New Literary History

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English and Comparative Literature
Johns Hopkins University Press
Published Here
March 17, 2015