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Exceptional America

Newness and National Identity

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Philip Abbott

The belief that America is not only different but «exceptional» is a central aspect of American identity that appears in the speeches and writings of John Winthrop to Martin Luther King Jr. to Ronald Reagan. Yet how and why America is exceptional has produced widely diverse answers. Philip Abbott alters this debate by arguing that Americans are the way they talk. He examines American exceptionalism as a preoccupation with «newness» in both politics and culture and traces its influence in a series of great American political texts, including the Declaration of Independence, The Federalist Papers, Democracy in America, Walden, The Souls of Black Folk, and various novels and speeches.