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Robert G. Moser, Chair BAT 2.116, Mailcode A1800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-5121

Spring 2010

GOV 357M • Constitutional Design

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
38855 TTh
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
BAT 5.102
Elkins, Z

Course Description

Recent constitutional reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan has redirected our attention to the problems of creating foundational charters. In this course we will examine the design and implementation of national constitutions. In particular, we will address the following questions. What are the basic elements of constitutions? How do these elements differ across time, across region, and across regime type? What is the process by which states draft and implement constitutions? What models, theories, and writings have influenced the framers of constitutions? We proceed by reviewing the historical roots of select constitutions and investigate their provisions and formal characteristics. We begin with a carefully investigation of the North American experience, both in the United States and Canada and then move to other noteworthy constitutions in each of the other continents. The course requires careful and diligent reading, consistent participation, and two in-class exams.

Grading Policy

This is a seminar for undergraduates who have taken at least six hours of Government coursework or related coursework in other departments. Discussion of the written material is a central component of the course, and the expectation is that you come fully prepared to discuss the readings assigned on any given day. Your grade will be based on the following components: (1) Class Participation (30%). The participation score will be based on both attendance and, more importantly, your contribution to class discussions. (2) Reaction papers (30%). For at least eight of the sessions, you will be required to respond to the readings in a short reaction paper. You may choose which of the eight sessions you turn in papers, except that you must complete four in each half of the course (that is, four before March 3 and four after). Reaction papers are short (no more than 2 page, double-spaced) essays in which you reflect on the readings and address any criticism(s) or reactions to the readings. Some weeks you might be asked to address a particular question, but for most weeks you can address the issues or questions of your choice. For more guidance, see the handout, "How to Write a Reaction Paper," which is available on the course website. Reaction papers for each week must be posted on the website by 10 PM on the day before class. See the handout for specific instructions on how to post your paper. Reaction papers are graded on an acceptable/unacceptable basis. As long as you show that you have read, and reflected on, the reading in a coherent thoughtful fashion, your paper will be deemed acceptable and you will receive full credit. (3) Exams (40%). You will take two in-class exams (a midterm and a final) in which you will be asked to respond to a series of questions testing your comprehension of the reading. Policy


Jack N. Rakove. 1996. Original Meanings: Politics and ideas in the making of the constitution. New York: Vintage Books. Peter H. Russell. 2004. Constitutional Odyssey: Can Canadians Become a Sovereign People? (3rd edition). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.


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