"On Tarzan is a wonderful read . . . a great introduction to cultural studies, to American studies, and also to the 'American Century.' The book hinges neatly on Vernon's continual discovery of paradox and/or contradiction both within relevant contexts (gender, sexuality, colonialism, etc.) and across them."
—Kevin Kopelson, author of Sedaris
Tarzan first appeared in 1912. To ponder his journey from jungle lord then to Disney boy-toy now is, as Vernon writes, to touch on "childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, especially for the male of the species; on colonialism and nationhood; on Hollywood and commerce, race and gender, sex and death, Darwin and Freud. On nature—is Tarzan friend or foe? On imagination and identity."
Vernon exposes the contradictions, ambiguities, and coincidences of the Tarzan phenomenon. Tarzan is noble and savage, eternal adolescent and eternal adult, hero to immigrants and orphans but also to nativist Americans. Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan story is racist, but Tarzan himself is racially slippery. Although Tarzan asserts his white superiority over savage Africans, his adventures flirt with miscegenation and engage our ongoing obsession with all things primitive.
As the 2012 centennial of Tarzan's creation approaches, the ape-man's hold on us can still manifest itself in surprising ways. This entertaining study, with its rich and multilayered associations, offers a provocative model for understanding the life cycle of pop culture phenomena.
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