When former heavyweight champion Jim Jeffries came out of retirement on the fourth of July, 1910 to fight current black heavywight champion Jack Johnson in Reno, Nevada, he boasted that he was doing it "for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a negro." Jeffries, though, was trounced. Whites everywhere rioted. The furor, Gail Bederman demonstrates, was part of two fundamental and volatile national obsessions: manhood and ...
When former heavyweight champion Jim Jeffries came out of retirement on the fourth of July, 1910 to fight current black heavywight champion Jack Johnson in Reno, Nevada, he boasted that he was doing it "for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a negro." Jeffries, though, was trounced. Whites everywhere rioted. The furor, Gail Bederman demonstrates, was part of two fundamental and volatile national obsessions: manhood and racial dominance.
In turn-of-the-century America, cultural ideals of manhood changed profoundly, as Victorian notions of self-restrained, moral manliness were challenged by ideals of an aggressive, overtly sexualized masculinity. Bederman traces this shift in values and shows how it brought together two seemingly contradictory ideals: the unfettered virility of racially "primitive" men and the refined superiority of "civilized" white men. Focusing on the lives and works of four very different Americans—Theodore Roosevelt, educator G. Stanley Hall, Ida B. Wells, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman—she illuminates the ideological, cultural, and social interests these ideals came to serve.
Bederman (history, Notre Dame) has written a complex but intriguing account of the links between concepts of race, gender, and civilization in late 19th- and early 20th-century America. Focusing on shifting constructions of "manhood" and "civilization," she examines aspects of the lives and careers of Jack Johnson, Ida B. Wells, G. Stanley Hall, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Theodore Roosevelt, and Edgar Rice Burroughs, all of whom illustrate attempts to use these constructions as rhetorical weapons in the struggle to define basic race and gender roles. A densely packed analysis that will be appropriate primarily for scholars in the field of American cultural studies.-Anthony O. Edmonds, Ball State Univ., Muncie, Ind.
Bederman (history, U. of Notre Dame) investigates the connection between powerful manhood and racial dominance, drawing on feminist and post-structuralist theories to trace a cultural reconfiguration of manhood in which Victorian ideals of self-restrained, moral manliness were challenged by new formulations of aggressive, sexualized masculinity. She focuses on the lives and works of people such as Theodore Roosevelt and Ida B. Wells to illuminate the interplay between ideologies of evolutionary civilization, racial dominance, and male primitivism. Contains b&w photos and illustrations. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Gail Bederman is associate professor of history at the University of Notre Dame. She is currently writing a history of early public advocacy of contraception in Great Britain and the United States, and especially the activities of seven individuals: William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, T.R. Malthus, Francis Place, Richard Carlile, Robert Dale Owen, and Frances Wright.
List of Illustrations
Ch. 1: Remaking Manhood through Race and "Civilization"
Ch. 2: "The White Man's Civilization on Trial": Ida B. Wells, Representations of Lynching, and Northern Middle-Class Manhood
Ch. 3: "Teaching Our Sons to Do What We Have Been Teaching the Savages to Avoid": G. Stanley Hall, Racial Recapitulation, and the Neurasthenic Paradox
Ch. 4: "Not to Sex - But to Race!" Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Civilized Anglo-Saxon Womanhood, and the Return of the Primitive Rapist
Ch. 5: Theodore Roosevelt: Manhood, Nation, and "Civilization"
Conclusion: Tarzan and After