Lincoln's Miniature Bible : Performing Sacred History in the Gettysburg Address


SMITH Jeffrey Alan

Year of publication 2019
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Brno Studies in English
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Web Smith, "Lincoln's Miniature Bible" (Brno Studies in English)
Keywords Abraham Lincoln; Gettysburg Address; American Civil War; Bible; Christianity; political rhetoric; WaltWhitman; William H. Herndon
Description Analysts of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address have noted its reliance on religious and liturgicallanguage and motifs, but have not fully recognized the intricate way in which is mimics the Bible, replicatingthe "U-shape" of "type" and "antitype" that Northrop Frye and others have identified as the structuringprinciple of Christian Scripture. Elaborating this schema with remarkable care, Lincoln in effect re-createssacred or "salvation" history in miniature, casting the ephemeral words and event of the moment as the focalpoint of human destiny. The resulting dialectical tension, which counterposes the fleeting or disposable to theprofoundly important, refutes – but was also carried forward – in the popular legend that the address washastily written on the back of an envelope. In other instructive ways, too, it helped to generate the mythicmeanings that Americans have attached both to the address and to Lincoln himself.
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