espionage…treason…patriotism
the military…justicetruth…the press…
intolerance … violence …assassination … cover-up
political prisoner … illegal detention … secret evidence … forged documents …
spurious suicide … the law ... public intellectual …
whistleblower … loyaltyprisoner … family … memory …
social media … republic … courtroom drama … traitor … syndicate …conspiracy …. anti-semitism

These words reflect issues of vital concern in our contemporary culture. The same issues were also at the heart of a divisive crisis over a century ago that became known across the globe as the Dreyfus Affair.

In 1894, Alfred Dreyfus found himself at the center of a political scandal that divided France. An army officer and assimilated French Jew, Dreyfus was accused of being a spy, and condemned to life imprisonment off the coast of French Guiana. The ensuing conflict, lasting over a decade and labeled “The Dreyfus Affair,” touched every part of French society. Printed words and images were crucial in swaying public opinion during the Affair, and the role of the media then bears marked similarities to the contested place of the media in today’s society.

This exhibition begins with a timeline and cast of characters and then gives a semi-chronological overview of the Affair, focusing on specific themes and individuals central to the Affair. It also examines the Affair from larger perspectives, exploring topics including the role of the military; images and graphics; social media and popular culture; women; the press and public opinion; and patriotism. Justice, truth, and loyalty: all were put to the test during the Dreyfus Affair, and its lessons will resonate with today’s audiences.

The materials on display here are facsimiles of originals in the Lorraine Beitler Collection of the Dreyfus Affair at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. The collection, comprising over 1,000 items documenting the history of the Dreyfus Affair and its impact on the art, society, and politics of France and the modern world, was assembled by Dr. Lorraine Beitler in order to stimulate discussion of the issues of prejudice, racism, and social injustice in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. For more information on the Beitler Collection at Penn, please visit: http://sceti.library.upenn.edu/dreyfus/

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