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Houdini, Tarzan, and the Perfect Man: The…
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Houdini, Tarzan, and the Perfect Man: The White Male Body and the…

by John F. Kasson

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0809055473, Paperback)

An important new work from one of our premier cultural historians.

Houdini, Tarzan, and the Perfect Man considers the surprisingly complex evolution in representations of the white male body in late-nineteenth-century America, during years of rapid social transformation. John F. Kasson argues that three exemplars of physical prowess -- Eugen Sandow, an international vaudeville star and bodybuilder; Edgar Rice Burroughs's fictional hero Tarzan; and the great escape artist Harry Houdini -- represented both an ancient ideal of manhood and a modern commodity. They each extolled self-development, self-fulfillment, and escape from the confines of civilization while at the same time reasserting its values. This liberally illustrated, persuasively argued study analyzes the thematic links among these figures and places them in their rich historical and cultural context.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:30 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"In his new book, John F. Kasson examines the signs of crisis in American life a century ago, signs that new forces of modernity were affecting men's sense of who and what they really were." "When the Prussian-born Eugen Sandow, an international vaudeville star and bodybuilder, toured the United States in the 1890s, Florenz Ziegfeld cannily presented him as the "perfect man," representing both an ancient ideal of manhood and a modern commodity extolling self-development and self-fulfillment. With Harry Houdini, the dream of escape was literally embodied in spectacular performances in which he triumphed over every kind of threat to masculine integrity - bondage, imprisonment, insanity, and death. Then, when Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan swung from tree to tree and into the public eye in 1912, the fantasy of a perfect white Anglo-Saxon male was taken further, escaping the confines of civilization but reasserting its values, beating his chest and bellowing his triumph to the world. Kasson's liberally illustrated and persuasively argued study analyzes the themes linking these figures and places them in their rich historical and cultural context. Concern with the white male body - with exhibiting it and with the perils to it - suffused American culture in the years before World War I, he suggests, and continues with us today."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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