A Country with No Name: Tales from the Constitution

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Pantheon Books, 1997 - History - 419 pages
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Mischievously composed, this groundbreaking work intends nothing short of a revolution in how we think about the "American" constitution and government. In A Country with No Name, Claire St. John, a stylish, mysterious, and peremptory young Englishwoman who is completing her university studies here, undertakes to spend two weeks tutoring a young American, Oliver Huggins, in American history. As the theme of her "tales, " St. John asserts that the country has gone through its history without a name. For twelve afternoons she leads Huggins on, using colloquial language that is by turns satirical, bantering, and metaphorical. Structured with quizzes and unconventional vignettes about familiar personages, using speeches, songs, dramatizations, interior monologues, and time warps, the text weaves in and out of the no-namedness of our country. Startling observations emerge out of their dialogue. The original States and the Framers had irreconcilable difficulties in denoting the parties to the constitution and in naming the country to which they wished to fix allegiance. Because of these difficulties, the country we now call "America" was late in getting a name; indeed, it did not get a name until decades after the War of Secession, a century later than the drafting of the constitution that was supposed to have founded it. St. John's unique perspective raises questions about the legality of the constitution, the supreme law of the land, the prerogatives of the supreme court, oaths of office, and leadership claims of presidents, alerting us in the process to future possibilities, both good and bad.

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User Review  - elenchus - LibraryThing

The central question ("How is it that the United States has not so much a name, as a formal description standing in for a name, and what does the story behind this fact tell us about the country?") is ... Read full review

A country with no name: tales from the Constitution

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Strict constructionists, take note: de Grazia argues (via an alter ego, a mysterious Englishwoman instructing a young American) that since our country wasn't called anything until the end of the 19th ... Read full review


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