Ashcroft's prayer circle

Michael Pugliese debsian at
Wed May 16 17:17:12 PDT 2001

Newish book that fleshes out the scary idea that American Protestant literalism and Constitutional fetishism (and not just so called "strict constructionists" [I get that right? you know, Scalia et. al.] but mainstream legal theory and practice, are two peas in a pod. "Serving The Word: Literalism In America from the Pulpit to the Bench, " by Vincent Crapanzano, The New Press, 2000. Michael Pugliese

Annotation An anthropologist's "accessible, timely, and significant" (Kirkus Reviews) exploration of America's search for certainty. Brilliantly observed and persuasively argued, Serving the Word is an unprecedented look at the prevalence of literalism and the unexpected forms it takes in modern America's religious and secular life. Hailed as "thoughtful [and] suggestive" (The New York Review of Books), Serving the Word treats literalism as a modern belief system, analyzing its place in two seemingly contrasting fields: Christianity and the law. Moving from wealthy Angelenos who embrace starkly literal readings of the Bible to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's insisting on the narrowest interpretation of legal texts, leading anthropologist Vincent Crapanzano makes a persuasive claim that the attraction to literal certainty that we associate with fringe fanaticism is in fact deeply embedded in American culture. This "disturbing but important" book (The Washington Post Book World) examines our society's very conception of the truth, and poses basic questions about the state of America's mind and soul.

Author Biography: Vincent Crapanzano is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Comparative Literature in the Graduate Faculty of the City University of New York. His many books include Waiting: The Whites of South Africa. He lives in New York with his wife, the writer Jane Kramer.

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