REAGAN SPEAKS: The Making of an American Myth by Paul D. Erickson

REAGAN SPEAKS: The Making of an American Myth

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A ""literary criticism"" of the oratorical themes and ploys that have formed the undercurrent of Ronald Reagan's speeches from his 1948 entry into political life as president of the Screen Actor's Guild through last year's campaign. The author gives us a thesis-like analysis, the upshot of which is that Reagan has always been obsessed with the battle between good and evil, leading him to symbolize all public issues as a microcosm of that struggle. This is a short book, but Erickson manages to overly beat a dead dog in his analysis of this good and evil theme. The reader is never quite clear if he is chastising Reagan for resorting to a never-ending series of analogies, allegories, and homilies, using simple stories of the courage, piety, charity, idealism, and virtues of Main Street heroes, or if he is criticizing Americans for falling for it. He claims to be doing neither. Rather, Erickson says that he is only pointing out what is there, leaving his own biases in the voting booth. But there is evident a certain urbane disdain for Reagan's homey eloquence. Politicians don't make good subjects for literary criticism; they speak to common people in their own tongue, and it seems as if intellectuals can never forgive them for not speaking in academic tongues. Actually, the best writing in this book is the final third--Reagan speeches that Erickson critiques.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1985
Publisher: New York Univ. Press--dist. by Columbia Univ. Press