Set in Stone: America's Embrace of the Ten Commandments

ISBN : 9780190253196

Jenna Weissman Joselit
224 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Dec 2016
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The Ten Commandments need no introduction. In fact, we probably think we know all there is to know about these divine dos and don'ts. But as this imaginative and vivid account reveals, there is a lot more to this ancient biblical code than Moses and Mount Sinai. Situating the Ten Commandments within the context of modern America, prominent historian and engaging story-teller Jenna Weissman Joselit takes the reader from Indian burial mounds in 19th-century Ohio to the sand dunes of 1920s California and into the civic squares of the 1950s to reveal the centrality of the Ten Commandments to the nation's identity. Rich in incident and story and inhabited by a lively cast of characters whose ranks include forgers and filmmakers, architects and archaeologists, ordinary citizens and politicians, this book compels us to take another look at the Ten Commandments and see them afresh. Through a series of deftly-rendered vignettes, this compelling account recasts the cultural impact of the Ten Commandments in American society not as a legal code or theological imperative, but as a physical, material, and visual phenomenon. We come away with the understanding that they are not cast in stone but a fertile repository of American history.


Chapter 1: Species Humbug
Chapter 2: The Ultimate To-Do List
Chapter 3: Good Neighbors
Chapter 4: Special Effects
Chapter 5: Take Two
Conclusion: Pedigree
Bibliographic Essay

About the author: 

Jenna Weissman Joselit is the Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of History at the George Washington University. She is the author of several books on American daily life in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including The Wonders of America, winner of the National Jewish Book Award in History, and A Perfect Fit: Clothes, Character, and the Promise of America.

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