Thursday, April 2, 2009

Welcome to Robert Tsai

Robert Tsai, American University, joins the Legal History Blog as a guest blogger for the month of April. Robert is the author of an elegant new book, Eloquence and Reason: Creating a First Amendment Culture (Yale University Press 2008), soon to be featured on a panel at the meeting of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities, at Suffolk Law School in Boston this weekend.

Here's the book description:

This provocative book presents a theory of the First Amendment’s development. During the twentieth century, Americans gained trust in its commitments, turned the First Amendment into an instrument for social progress, and exercised their rhetorical freedom to create a common language of rights.

Robert L. Tsai explains that the guarantees of the First Amendment have become part of a governing culture and nationwide priority. Examining the rhetorical tactics of activists, presidents, and lawyers, he illustrates how committed citizens seek to promote or destabilize a convergence in constitutional ideas. Eloquence and Reason reveals the social and institutional processes through which foundational ideas are generated and defends a cultural role for the courts.
And the blurbs:

"Just when I thought that there was nothing new to say about the First Amendment, Robert Tsai comes along and writes a book which encourages me to think again."—Bruce Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science, Yale University

"This beautifully written, carefully argued, and thought-provoking book illuminates the way the practice of free speech and broad societal engagement with constitutional ideas animate American democracy."—Mary L. Dudziak, Judge Edward J. and Ruey L. Guirado Professor of Law, History, and Political Science, University of Southern California, and author of Exporting American Dreams: Thurgood Marshall's African Journey

"Tsai's exciting work on the interplay between the Supreme Court and the executive branch over free speech issues in the nineteen forties sheds new light on the origins of modern constitutional law. His new account of the relationship between language and power in political discourse is sure to be controversial and should be widely read."—Jefferson Powell, Professor of Law, Duke University, and author of Constitutional Conscience: The Moral Dimension of Judicial Decision

"A provocative meditation on the ways metaphors used in constitutional doctrine empower, limit, create, and recreate the public over which the written Constitution is said to assert authority. Intriguing case studies arise from the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the Christian Right of the 1980s, and the attacks on Jehovah's Witnesses in the 1940s."—Mark V. Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

I noticed from the Yale University Press website that Robert is among the ranks of what I sometimes call the American Airlines Professors of Law. He lives in Washington, D.C. and Eugene, Oregon. (I live in Santa Monica, California and Sharon, Massachusetts. See you in the airport!)

Welcome to Robert!