Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917

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University of Chicago Press, 2008 M04 7 - 322 pages
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.

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User Review  - DarthDeverell - LibraryThing

In Manliness & Civilization, Gail Bederman argues that, “between 1890 and 1917, as white middle-class men actively worked to reinforce male power, their race became a factor which was crucial to their ... Read full review

Manliness & civilization: a cultural history of gender and race in the United States, 1880-1917

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

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 ... Read full review


1 Remaking Manhood through Race arid Civilization
Ida B Wells Representations of Lynching and Northern MiddleClass Manhood
G Stanley Hall Racial Recapitulation and the Neurasthenic Paradox
4 Not to SexBut to Race Charlotte Perkins Gilman Civilized AngloSaxon Womanhood and the Return of the Primitive Rapist
Manhood Nation and Civilization
Conclusion Tarzan and After

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About the author (2008)

Gail Bederman was born on October 20, 1952, in Illinois. She received a B.F.A. from New York University in 1978 and an M.A. (1984) and a Ph.D. (1993) from Brown University. The result of her doctoral research was Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917. The book addresses topics, such as masculinity, sex roles, race relations, and the white supremacy movement. Bederman has contributed to other books, including Gender and American History Since 1890, and has written articles for such periodicals as American Quarterly and Radical History Review. Since 1992, Bederman has taught history at the University of Notre Dame, where she is an assistant professor.

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