Illuminating the 25th?: the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the US Constitution in eight novels

Manson, Laurie Katherine (2023) Illuminating the 25th?: the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the US Constitution in eight novels. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis is the first detailed analysis of portrayals of the Twenty-fifth Amendment in fiction. Ratified in 1967, the Amendment established a constitutional process for managing the contingency of presidential inability. The research examines the portrayal of the Amendment in eight political thrillers published between 1965 and 2014 to analyse issues relating to presidential inability, succession and the role of the Constitution in American culture. The Amendment is a frequent plot device in political thrillers across various popular culture media, and concerns over presidential inability remain topical to this day. A strand of scholarship interprets political or societal issues as problem narratives that look to constitutional interpretation and change to raise public debate and suggest a resolution. This thesis presents presidential inability as a problem narrative with two facets, anxiety and usurpation and identifies a subgenre of the American political novel that these novels represent. Many expert recommendations to improve the Amendment recognise the need to provide information and educate the public on the 25th’s purpose. Fiction is one public platform that can engage with that aim. I argue that in the absence of real-life precedent, fictional representations illuminate the contingency that the Amendment plans for and, perhaps, can act as surrogate contingency planning manuals by illustrating the Amendment’s provisions and suggesting interpretations. The novels highlight the Amendment’s flexibility and ambiguities. The core of the study uses the concepts of political power and legitimacy to explore the novels’ treatment of four key aspects of the Amendment, its wording, the roles of the constitutional actors, the processes it sets out and the circumstances when constitutional actors should at least consider its invocation. This thesis uses these four aspects for its structure, bookended by its investigation of three broader features of fiction’s use of the 25th: its representations of the presidency, the Amendment’s limitations and the use of alternative means of removing a president. Scholars have criticised wider fictional representations of the Amendment as creating misconceptions. Detailed analysis of the eight novels shows that fiction goes beyond representing the Amendment correctly. By presenting characters that essentially act in good-faith and demonstrate its drafters’ intent of constitutional morality, the novels show that the problem narrative of presidential inability is unfounded.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Twenty-fifth Amendment, presidential inability, power, legitimacy, fiction
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities
Supervisor's Name: Scroop, Dr. Daniel and Van Puyvelde, Dr. Damien
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83576
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 05 May 2023 15:46
Last Modified: 09 May 2023 07:41
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83576

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