Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Iconic First Amendment at Syracuse University

My employer, Syracuse University, has just built a monumental iconic text into its new building for the Newhouse School of Public Communication. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution wraps around three sides of the building in huge letters etched into glass, with especially large letters for the words, "freedom of speech" and "press," as one would expect on a journalism school. The glass enclosed floors above the phrase are mottled in an alternately dark-light design reminiscent of newsprint.

Putting parts or all of the U.S. Constitution in monumental form seems to be a growing trend (for another examples, see the entire text etched in glass at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, which opened in 2003). There is even a movement to put monuments to the Bill of Rights (the first Ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution) on the grounds of all state capitals. The Statesman reports that Arizona approved such a monument in 2006. Texas has done so this year (2007).

In a 2004 article, I compared the movement to defend and promote monuments of the Ten Commandments with the movement to iconicly enshrine the Constitution. I suggested that the debate over the former was, in part, fueled by the latter and involved a struggle over "how to symbolize their relative position and status." That remains the case.

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