What is prominent professor and political commentator Wills talking about when he says, "The power of words has rarely been given a more compelling demonstration"? The mere 272 words of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, that's what. It's a maxim, true or false, of American historiography that so much stuff has been written about the sixteenth president that even his doctor's dog was at some point accorded "biographical" treatment. Well, don't bother reading about that questionably distinguished mutt; read Wills instead. And what you'll be treated to is an insightful and completely original extended essay on the effect of Lincoln's brief speech at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery following the North's Pyrrhic victory over Lee's incursion into Yankee territory. Yes, the prose of the address was peerless, but Wills explains just how peerless it was, submitting the thesis that the address effected a change in the minds of American citizens as fundamentally as if the Constitution had been formally altered. Lincoln, that verbal magician, in speaking to the crowd assembled to honor the war dead on that November day of 1863, left the audience and every other American with the notion that the Civil War was being fought for the equality of all persons, when in fact the Constitution guaranteed no such thing. Actually, this beautifully written book is far less arcane than any description might indicate; in fact, anyone with an interest in U.S. history--or simply in ideas--will be intrigued by its argument. (Reviewed Mar. 15, 1992)0671769561Brad Hooper
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review
Wills ( Inventing America ) combines semantics and political analysis in this account of the most famous speech in U.S. history. He puts Lincoln's words in their cultural and intellectual contexts, establishing the contributions of New England Transcendentalism and the Greek Revival to the structure and the substance of the address. He also interprets the speech as revolutionary, since it's a speech, too for in it Lincoln bypassed as is, seems that Wills, not Lincoln, is bypassing the Constitution to justify civic equality and national union on the basis of the Declaration of Independence. Wills's analysis of the matrix of Lincoln's text is more convincing than his present-minded critique of ``original intent.'' Nevertheless, he makes a strong case for his argument that the concept of ``a single people dedicated to a proposition'' has been overwhelmingly accepted by successive generations of Americans. BOMC, History Book Club and QPB alternates; author tour. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal Review
The award-winning author, who has dissected John F. Kennedy ( The Kennedy Imprisonment , LJ 2/15/82. o.p.), Richard Nixon ( Nixon Agonistes , LJ 8/70), Ronald Reagan ( Reagan's America , LJ 2/1/87), and the basic texts of the American Revolution ( Inventing America , LJ 6/15/78, and Explaining America , LJ 2/15/81, both o.p.), now takes full measure of the Gettysburg Address. In an original reading, Wills argues that Lincoln's short speech revolutionized the conception of America, achieving with words a cosmic nationalism that could not be won by bullets alone. He examines the rhetorical roots of the address in the Greek classics, transcendentalism, the rural cemetery movement, and Lincoln's own love of cadence and grammar. Most importantly, he reveals the speech as a calculated political and rhetorical act--rather than the casual remarks of popular myth--whereby Lincoln redefined constitutional precepts in America, challenging the constraints of limited rights with the moral force of equality. Another tour de force that will cause much discussion and argument. Essential for college and major public libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/92.-- Randall M. Miller, St. Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Garry Wills, 1934 - Garry Wills was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1934. Wills received a B.A. from St. Louis University in 1957, an M.A. from Xavier University of Cincinnati in 1958, an M.A. (1959) and a Ph.D. (1961) in classics from Yale. Wills was a junior fellow of the Center for Hellenic Studies from 1961-62, an associate professor of classics and adjunct professor of humanities at Johns Hopkins University from 1962-80. Wills was the first Washington Irving Professor of Modern American History and Literature at Union College, and was also a Regents Professor at the University of California in Santa Barbara, Silliman Seminarist at Yale, Christian Gauss Lecturer at Princeton, W.W. Cook Lecturer at the University of Michigan Law School, Hubert Humphrey Seminarist at Macalester College, Welch Professor of American Studies at Notre Dame University and Henry R. Luce Professor of American Culture and Public Policy at Northwestern University (1980-88). Wills is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and his articles appear frequently in The New York Review of Books. Wills is the author of "Lincoln at Gettysburg," which won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 1993 and the NEH Presidential Medal, "John Wayne's America," "A Necessary Evil: A History of American Distrust of Government" and "The Kennedy Imprisonment." Other awards received by Wills include the National Book Critics Award, the Merle Curti Award of the organization of American Historians, the Wilbur Cross Medal from Yale Graduate School, the Harold Washington Book Award and the Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting, which was for writing and narrating the 1988 "Frontline" documentary "The Candidates." (Bowker Author Biography) Garry Wills is a Pulitzer-prize winning historian and cultural critic. A former professor of Greek at Yale University, his many books include Lincoln at Gettysburg, Reagan's America, Witches and Jesuits, and a biography of Saint Augustine. He lives in Evanston, Indiana. (Publisher Provided) Garry Wills is a frequent contributor to The New York Times Magazine and The New York Review of Books. He lives in Evanston, Illinois. (Publisher Provided)