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Free Speech Beyond Words: The Suprising Reach of the First Amendment by Mark V. Tushnet, Alan K. Chen, and Joseph Blocher

Wade Franklin Richardson


Free Speech Beyond Words: The Surprising Reach of the First Amendment addresses a straightforward, and seemingly simple, question—why is it that certain art forms that do not communicate a specific, clearly articulated message, are considered “speech” and, thus, are covered under the First Amendment?  Written by three authors, this work is divided into an introduction, three main chapters, and a concluding chapter.  In Chapter One, Alan Chen discusses instrumental music under the First Amendment, while in Chapter Two, Mark V. Tushnet focuses on nonrepresentational art and the First Amendment, and Joseph Blocher explores the relationship between nonsense and the First Amendment in Chapter Three (as the Supreme Court has declared nonsense poetry such as Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” to be protected under the First Amendment.)  While the authors make some headway in trying to justify First Amendment protection for these art forms (and for the concept of nonsense), their primary goal seems to be to make the argument that this is an important area of legal scholarship that has been underexplored, and to encourage further study and work in this area. 

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