Lincoln at Gettysburg
Spring 2015 Town & Gown Dinner Lecture with Prof. Diana Schaub
As part of the Kinder Forum’s Town & Gown Dinner Symposium Series, Loyola University (Maryland) Professor of Political Science Diana Schaub delivered a March 3, 2015, lecture on the historical background and rhetorical nuance of Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.” Providing a testament to the importance of close reading in all academic disciplines, Prof. Schaub went sentence-by-sentence—and, in some cases, word-by-word—through the famous 1863 oration, unpacking the layers of significance with which Lincoln endowed each of his turns of phrase. In parsing the speech’s opening, single-sentence paragraph, for example, Prof. Schaub noted how Lincoln drew on the language of scripture, generative congress, the American Founding, and Euclidian geometry in order to announce how his purpose at Gettysburg was to bridge the United States’ past and future. For Lincoln, she explained, adequately dedicating the battlefield’s cemetery required reminding his audience not only of how the nation was “conceived in Liberty” but also of how the present war marked a necessary, if tragic, use of action to translate the abstract, propositional idea of equality into a concrete, self-evident truth that would define the nation going forward. Throughout the remainder of her talk, Prof. Schaub continued to demonstrate how even the most subtle of rhetorical choices—“Now” at the beginning of the speech’s second paragraph, or “But” at the beginning of its third and final paragraph—were used by Lincoln to underscore how the survival of a just political order and the success of the American experiment were at stake and, in turn, how the act of dedication was by necessity inseparable from the act of re-turning the nation’s attention to the “great task” that remained before it.
Attended by Kinder Forum faculty and fellows, MU officials and guests from the Columbia community, Prof. Schaub’s lecture was held in the Great Room at the University’s Reynolds Alumni Center. A copy of Prof. Schaub’s recent article in National Affairs, “Lincoln at Gettysburg,” can be found here and a video of Prof. Schaub’s Town & Gown Lecture can be found here.