Unclean Lips: Obscenity, Jews, and American Culture


Product Details

New York University Press
Publish Date
6.28 X 9.32 X 0.92 inches | 1.14 pounds
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About the Author

Josh Lambert is Sophia Moses Robison Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and English at Wellesley College. He is author of one book and numerousarticles, including Unclean Lips: Obscenity, Jews, and American Culture (NYU Press, 2013); "Publishing Jews at Knopf" in Book History, Vol. 21 (JohnsHopkins University Press, 2018); and "Fictions of Anti-Semitism and the Beginnings of Holocaust Literature" in American Literature in Transition, 1940-1950 (Cambridge University Press, 2017). Selected as he has expertise on Yiddish publishing in the US and has similarly addressed Jewish writers who have influenced the development of modern American culture.


"[] Lambert has written a lively account of a little-known history that deserves a wide audience."--The Historian
"This is a well-written, at times playful, book and is accessible for readers who are familiar with some but not all of the discussed texts. Lambert evidently enjoyed reading, thinking, and writing about his source materials...Thoroughly researched and thoughtful volume."--The American Jewish Archives Journal
"Who would have thought that some American Jews at the dawn of this century supported 'smutty' literature as a way of entering exclusive cultural circles, rather than getting thrown out? This is just one of the many surprising, strange and fascinating pieces of literary history found in Josh Lambert's detailed chronicle of Jews and obscenity in America, Unclean Lips."--Sarah Seltzer "Lilith "
"Lambert is to be congratulated on skillfully steering between the two rocks and producing a detailed and balanced picture that considers both legal and literary questions . . . . This book is an interesting and well-informed study of a fascinating subject."--Journal of Contemporary Religion
"Josh Lambert undermines many cliches about Jews, obscenity, and even 'sexual anti-Semitism' in this engrossing book. He brilliantly navigates us through many episodes of sexual representation, some familiar, some quite unexpected, along with the social and legal conflicts that surrounded them. Lucidly written and arduously researched, this is an exceptional work of cultural history."--Morris Dickstein, author of Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression
"[H]e presents what is engaging material, demonstrating how 'taboo words and explicit representations of sex were meaningful to American Jews during the 20th-century . . . in contingent and historically specific ways.'"--Publishers Weekly
"Josh Lambert'sUnclean Lipsis brilliant not only for its erudition and wit but also for the freshness and originality of its insights into the critical role that Jews have played in the history of American obscenity. Lambert takes the anti-Semitic canard that Jews are a people of unclean lips with a perverse obsession with obscenity and explores both the harm done to Jews charged with obscenity and the ways Jews in different eras have exploited their relationship with obscenity to gain cultural capital and to advance themselves individually and as a marginalized group."--The Journal of American History
"Josh Lambert breaks new ground in his complex, original, and important work on Jews and obscenity. His story weaves together Jewish publishers, writers, birth control crusaders, Orthodox advocates for modesty, and comedians as well as non Jews writing about Jews. He recenters debates about obscenity on Jewishness, as well as centering them within American Jewish culture. Unclean Lips is a timely and fascinating study of American culture itself."--Riv-Ellen Prell, author of Fighting to Become Americans: Jews Gender and the Anxiety of Assimilation
"In his study, Lambert, a professor of English, provides new angles on the connection of Jews and obscenity, as well as that connection's surprising relationships to eternal questions about Jewish difference: does it exist? what is it? and wherefore?"--Rachel Gordan "Religion Dispatches "
"The strength in his argument is not only in finding social meaning in smut but also in moving beyond the ready cliches of Jewish marginalization to an astute recognition of Jewish power. Lambert discovers in obscene speech, beyond its associations with subversion and marginality, the ability to arouse attention, confer status, and create capital."--Naomi Seidman "The Chronicle of Higher Education "