Ever since the mid-19th century, modern America has made much of the Ten Commandments. Although its citizens may not have been able to get the ancient dos and don’ts quite right, honoring them more in the breach than anything else, they insisted all the same on seeing them everywhere: in stone, paper, cardboard, stained glass and Technicolor. In her illustrated lecture, the distinguished cultural historian Jenna Weissman Joselit explores the nation’s fascination with the Biblical text.
Jenna Weissman Joselit is the Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies & Professor of History at The George Washington University, where she also created and now directs two graduate programs in Jewish culture and the arts, the first of their kind in the country. She is the author of The Wonders of America, which received the National Jewish Book Award in History, and of the critically acclaimed A Perfect Fit: Clothes, Character and the Promise of America. Joselit also writes a monthly column on American Jewish culture for The Forward newspaper, which is now in its 17th consecutive year of publication. Her latest book, Set in Stone: America’s Embrace of the Ten Commandments, will be published next month by Oxford University Press.
The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is sponsored jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Wilson Center’s History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations and the George Washington University History Department for their support.