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dc.contributor.authorHeimlich, Evan Samuel
dc.descriptionDissertation (Ph.D.)--University of Kansas, American Studies, 2007.en_US
dc.description.abstractAs American and other modern practices of recirculating hegemony perform, particularly through nodes of nationalism and racism, the resolving of lived, social contradictions, mass cultural texts tend to deploy rites of divination in what I explain as "mantic practices." Herein I investigate the mantic practices of Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 film, The Ten Commandments. After a close reading of these practices in the film, the dissertation proceeds to analyze their genealogies.

The film's mantic practices work on several levels, the most basic of which includes depictions of rites of divination such as astrology or cleromancy (casting lots). Furthermore the film's deployment of certain rhetorics, such as "manifest destiny," function as divination. Overall the film positions its viewers as if performers of rites of divination. In addition to original diagrams, the dissertation features a set of frames captured from a digital video disk of the film. These appear as illustrations in the text and are duplicated in diptychs as a "Slide Show," attached.

Relative to prior interpretations, this dissertation brings increased depth, scale, detail, and suppleness to critiquing The Ten Commandments' cultural performance—its shape and provenance, as well as its impact and contribution to "mass mediumship." The genealogies here feature Judaism and Christianity, rhetorics of Black and White, performative modes such as melodrama, and modern technologies of mass mediation.

Across currents of lore and tradition, masterful mediators particularly have used the Decalogue—metonymic for law—in reaching determinations of sociocultural identity. From the ancient Israelites and Greeks through the rise of modern nationalism, as formalized rites have mediated uses of Bibles, such practices have helped constitute peoplehoods.

This dissertation demonstrates divination as a paradigm that links diverse texts, including literature and film, music and advertising, popular discourses and academic critiques. This investigation's findings help to challenge prevalent notions that anything has superseded premodern patterns of cultural performance; and articulates the role of supersessionism in peoples' framing of their own mantic practices.
dc.publisherUniversity of Kansasen_US
dc.rightsThis item is protected by copyright and unless otherwise specified the copyright of this thesis/dissertation is held by the author.en_US
dc.subjectPhilosophy, religion and theologyen_US
dc.subjectCommunication and the artsen_US
dc.subjectSocial sciencesen_US
dc.subjectDeMille, Cecil B.en_US
dc.subjectMantic practicesen_US
dc.subjectMass mediationen_US
dc.subjectTen Commandmentsen_US
dc.titleDivination by "The Ten Commandments": Its rhetorics and their genealogiesen_US
dc.thesis.degreeDisciplineAmerican Studies

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