Ways of reading the constitution

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1991
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Virginia Tech
Abstract

This thesis explores various approaches to constitutional interpretation, paying particular attention to the literalist approach to reading the Constitution set forth by W.W. Crosskey in Politics and the Constitution. Crosskey’s approach is compared to and contrasted with John Rohr’s intentionalist approach to reading the Constitution and the approach of judicial activism.

Drawing from literary theory, this thesis outlines Stanley Fish and Robert Scholes’ approaches to reading. Fish, like judicial activists, subordinates the text to the reader. Scholes, like Crosskey, argument for textual primacy. These literary critics mirror the debate in constitutional scholarship over where meaning lies: with the text or with the reader.

The debate over interpreting the Constitution adds to the tradition in public administration of normatively grounding the discipline in the Constitution. If this attempt at finding a normative grounding for public administration is to be successful, it must consider issues of interpretation.

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