Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:. Email required Address never made public. Name required. When the Prussian-born Eugene Sandow, an international vaudeville star and bodybuilder, toured the United States in the s, 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.
Then, when Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan swung down a vine into the public eye in , 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.
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. Kasson's liberally illustrated and persuasively argued study analyzes the themes linking these figures and places them in their rich historical and cultural context.
Men in loincloths and the crisis of modernity! What's a turn-of-the-century boy to do? Kasson Rudeness and Civility, maintains that there was a metamorphosis of masculinity in the dawning years John F. Account Options Sign in. Top charts. New arrivals. The new male vanity, recently identified by New York magazine, appears to have had a turn-of-the-century precedent.
While many upwardly mobile men today seem to be developing ''Adonis complexes'' -- satiated with gym memberships as well as plastic surgery and cosmetic buying sprees -- men in the late 's and early 's displayed a similar fascination with their bodies and the idea of physical metamorphosis. It was a phenomenon embodied, the historian John F. Kasson writes in his slight but intriguing new book, in the oft-repeated story of how President Theodore Roosevelt overcame childhood adversity, transforming ''his 'sickly, delicate,' asthmatic body into the pound muscular, barrel-chested figure of a supremely strong and energetic leader.
Kasson moves beyond ''Roosevelt's performances of manliness,'' to look at three popular figures of the day who he says represented evolving notions of masculinity: Eugen Sandow, a vaudeville performer and the father of modern bodybuilding, who was billed as the ''strongest man in the world''; Harry Houdini, the magician and escape artist known for his daring performances that ''emphasized his masculine toughness, fearlessness and invincibility''; and the fictional character Tarzan, the high-born noble savage, who incarnated ''enduring cultural fantasies about manly freedom and wildness.
It is Mr.He first attracted notice in vaudeville in the United States and then as "Harry 'Handcuff' Houdini" on a tour of Europe, where he challenged police forces to keep him locked up.