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Prodigal NationMoral Decline and Divine Punishment from New England to 9/11$
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Andrew R. Murphy

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195321289

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195321289.001.0001

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Constructing a Usable Past

Constructing a Usable Past

Chapter:
(p.125) Six Constructing a Usable Past
Source:
Prodigal Nation
Author(s):

Andrew R. Murphy (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195321289.003.0006

This chapter attends more closely to the competing ways of constructing and drawing on the past that each type of jeremiad employs. The chapter opens with a consideration of the U. S. Supreme Court's decision in Abington v. Schempp(1963), which outlawed public school prayer. It goes on to explore the uses of the past in traditionalist jeremiads, focusing on traditionalist appeals to nostalgia and an American Golden Age. The progressive jeremiad looks to the past as well, seeking to renarrate founding principles in language appropriate to changing times. Thus the progressive jeremiad is not concerned so much with the way “things really were” in the past, and even less in casting the future into the mold of the past. But the progressive jeremiad's past, containing such a powerful founding promise, is equally constructed, and equally mythic. Both types of jeremiads construct a past in accord with their fundamental political values and agenda, and in doing so call forth critical counternarratives from their political opponents.

Keywords:   Jeremiad, American jeremiad, traditionalist, progressive, nostalgia, Golden Age

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