Josh Lambert

Sophia Moses Robinson Professor of Jewish Studies and English

Research, writing, and teaching at the intersection of Jewish Studies and American literary and cultural studies.

As a researcher, I seek out areas in which Jews and Jewishness played important and understudied roles in the development of U.S. culture, with the aim of helping specialists in Jewish Studies and American Studies, as well as a broader reading audience, understand 19th-, 20th- and 21st-century cultural history in more complex and rigorous ways.

My books Unclean Lips (NYU, 2014) and The Literary Mafia (Yale, 2022) each take up a different area in which Jewishness profoundly shaped the direction of modern and contemporary life in the U.S.: in the former, around questions of obscenity and sexual representation, and in the latter, in the development of the book publishing industry. I’m currently researching a new book, an expansive narrative history of Jews and Jewishness in U.S. literature and culture that rejects the patriarchal and heteronormative biases that have characterized such histories in the past, and that centers instead the perspectives of women, LGBTQ+ people, and people of color. (Imagine, instead of Abraham Cahan, Philip Roth, and Woody Allen, a broad survey of U.S. Jewish culture anchored by Gertrude Stein, Muriel Rukeyser, Jo Sinclair, Sammy Davis, Jr., Fran Ross, Adrienne Rich, Paula Vogel, and Sass Orol.)

As a teacher, I aim to demonstrate the relevance of American Jews’ experiences, texts, and ideas to a wide range of academic and cultural concerns. In other words, I try to make the case that anyone who cares about the history of literature, popular culture, and the arts needs to spend at least a little time thinking seriously about Jews and Jewishness.

I teach a wide range of conventional and unconventional materials, including fiction, poetry, nonfiction, drama, comics and graphic novels, film, television, radio and podcasts, journalism, legal decisions, video games, and archival materials. I aim to have my syllabi reflect Jewish and non-Jewish diversity and emphasize female and nonbinary voices. At the end of my courses, my expectation is that students will take with them increased confidence as interpreters of American and Jewish literature, culture, and history, and a set of texts and cultural objects that will continue to speak to them and challenge them.

I have served on the board of directors of the Association for Jewish Studies and on the Executive Committee of the American Jewish Historical Society, and serve on the editorial boards of several academic journals. I judge fiction prizes regularly (including the $100,000 Sami Rohr Prize), and I write book reviews and essays for general audiences in publications like the New York Times Book Review, Jewish Currents, and Lilith.

I never get tired of thinking or talking about baking, video games, and Paris.

Current and upcoming courses

  • This course will approach the life and work of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg as a springboard for thinking about the experiences of Jewish women—especially those in the legal profession—in the 20th- and 21st-century U.S. We will read texts in several genres and disciplines, including histories of anti-Semitism and misogyny in American law, oral histories of female Jewish legal pioneers, and Justice Ginsberg’s own opinions and dissents. In addition, the course will use Justice Ginsberg’s career and experiences as a framework for examining broader issues at the intersection of feminism and popular culture. This will give us the chance to explore representations of her in various media such as Tumblr, children’s books, and Saturday Night Live.