Anthem Quality is a book about the lyrics of national anthems. In this theoretical survey, Christopher Kelen deals with the general meaning of an inter-national social phenomenon – the words we sing together with our compatriots when we assert ourselves to be national subjects. Like all social phenomena, the singing of an anthem is an event with a context. The persistence of an anthem, the changing of an anthem, the meaning of an anthem – these things have a subjective basis disclosed through contextual reading. In these pages, Kelen historicizes for us some of the world’s best-known national anthems, including ‘The Marseillaise’, ‘The Star Spangled Banner’, and ‘God Save the Queen’ and considers how these and lesser known anthems deal with such life-anddeath topics as authority, religion, love and devotion. The tear on the cheek, the chill down the spine, genuine willingness to sacrifice – however manipulable national feeling may be, there is no doubting the reality of the affect nations inspire. If anthems are anaesthetic, they are paradoxically stirring; if anthems are the muzak of nation, they are a participatory muzak. This book investigates an icon the devout typically refuse to admit that they are worshipping.
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