Teaching the Constitution

Tuesday, October 15, 2013
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm (EST) Enter Classroom Enter Forum


Robert Ferguson
George Edward Woodberry Professor in Law, Literature, and Criticism
Columbia University Law School
National Humanities Center Fellow

About the Seminar

The critic Stanley Crouch has called the Constitution “a blues document.” Others have described it as a great clockwork machine. Some see it as a living text; others assume its first rendition controls all of its meaning. Everyone puzzles over some of its language, yet everyone accepts it as an established plan of government as well as a set of absolutely controlling propositions. But does it, in any of these senses, tell a story? Why might it be important for the Constitution to be read like one? How do its various parts relate to one another? Why did so many consider it incomplete until a Bill of Rights was added in 1791? With that in mind, does it have a beginning, a middle, and an end? Does it now need internal revision? Join us to do a close reading of our founding document.

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Assigned Readings

    Choose any of the following:
  1. Constitution of the United States. The National Archives and Records Administration.
  2. Constitution of the United States, with amendments and commentary. Cornell University Law School.
  3. Constitution of the United States, with amendments and commentary. The Constitution Center.
  4. We also recommend the notes, texts, and questions from the National Humanities Center's primary source collection:
      Making the Revolution: The Constitution: 1780-1791.

Seminar Recording