In her latest collection of essays and lectures, Homage to Americans, Eva Brann explores the roots and essence of our American ways.
In “Mile-high Meditations,” her flight’s late departure from the Denver airport prompts a consideration of her manner of waiting (i.e.,“being”). As she looks around, she notes (and compares to her own) the ways her fellow travelers pass their time. These observations lead her to wonder how each of us lives with ourselves and how we live together—and put up with one another.
With these questions in mind, the next two essays carefully examine two famous political documents that have shaped American self-understanding: James Madison’s “Memorial and Remonstrance,” which is the essential argument for separation of church and state; and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which enlarged and refashioned our understanding of the American political character, first given formal expression in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
In “Paradox of Obedience,” a lecture delivered at the Air Force Academy, Brann considers the puzzling character of obedience in a country dedicated to liberty.
The concluding piece, “The Empire of the Sun and the West,” takes us to Aztec Mexico at the time of the Spanish conquest. What allowed Cortes and his handful of men to overcome a great empire? In pursuit of an answer, Brann describes a human type whose fulfillment she sees in the American character.
Eva Brann has taught at St. John’s College in Annapolis for fifty years. Paul Dry Books has published four of her books.