Garry L

Review From User :

A REVIEW in 292:



Fundamentally, the thing I love about criticism is the ability to read a damn fine book about a damn fine speech and recognize the author of the book wrote a little more than a page for every word in the Gettysburg Address. If you count appendixes and notes (and why wouldn't you when the appendix and notes matter).

I once teased my wife, during my early wooing stage, that I wanted to write an ode to every hair on her head (loads of odes). Garry Wills did. This book is both academic criticism (one chapter is infused with new historicism, one is textual criticism, one is formalist, one is mythological) and an ode to Lincoln, Language, and this damn fine speech. I could see Garry Wills publishing each chapter in some well-funded Civil War journal and eventually weaving each paper together. I'm not sure how it really happened. Wills might just have used the chapters and forms of literary criticism as an organizational framework. I am not going to do an exegesis on the book to find out. That would be far too meta.

Anyway, it was a quick and fascinating read and significantly deepened my understanding of Lincoln's motives for the speech while also acting as an Entmythologisierung* of the text. No. Lincoln did not write the text on the back of a napkin while on a train TO Gettysburg. Anyway, a must read for those who love history, the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, or Transcendentalism.

* I'm using the German here as a joke, since there were several instances when Wills referenced Everett bringing back the seeds of Transcendentalism and higher criticism from his studies there. I'm also using it because it is 1.5x as fun as just saying demystification.


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