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In Written in Stone, legal scholar Sanford Levinson considers the tangled responses of ever-changing societies to the monuments and commemorations created by past regimes or outmoded cultural and political systems. Drawing on examples from Albania to Zimbabwe, from Moscow to Managua, and paying particular attention to examples throughout the American South, Levinson looks at social and legal arguments regarding the display, construction, modification, and destruction of public monuments. He asks what kinds of claims the past has on the present, particularly if the present is defined in dramatic opposition to its past values. In addition, he addresses the possibilities for responding to the use and abuse of public spaces and explores how a culture might memorialize its historical figures and events in ways that are beneficial to all its members.
Written in Stone is a meditation on how national cultures have been or may yet be defined through the deployment of public monuments. It adds a thoughtful and crucial voice into debates surrounding historical accuracy and representation, and will be welcomed by the many readers concerned with such issues.
"In Written in Stone, Sanford Levinson suggests that rather than addressing the greatest challenge facing our multicultural society—namely, how to fashion ‘unum out of the pluribus of American society’—our efforts at achieving reconciliation seem to have produced increasingly polarized pockets of unums." - The American Prospect
“In Written in Stone, Levinson bravely confronts another article of constitutional faith, freedom of speech. Instead of the conventional examination of an individual’s right to speak without the interference from government, however, he looks at what protections the Bill of Rights provides for government-sanctioned speech.” - Peter Blake, Times Literary Supplement
“A profound and engrossing meditation on historical memory and national commemoration. It is so skillfully composed and illustrated with such striking examples that I read it in a single sitting, like a murder mystery—except that the question here is not ‘who done it’ but ‘how do we reckon with what was done?’”—Michael Walzer, author of On Toleration
“Much has been written about the controversy over public presentations of history, but rarely has the question of how to memorialize our past received the thoughtful, incisive, and fair-minded analysis provided by Sanford Levinson.”—Eric Foner, author of The Story of American Freedom
“Sanford Levinson has written a wonderfully wise and informed essay on the issue of how we commemorate the past when the past keeps on changing.”—Nathan Glazer, author of We Are All Multiculturalists Now
“This remarkable book addresses an issue as old as civilization and as topical as this morning’s newspaper. No reader of Levinson’s cultivated, nuanced, and balanced narrative will ever view a public monument in quite the same way.”—Norman Dorsen; President, ACLU, 1976–1991