Great Lives Lecture Series: Houdini

Book cover of Houdini, Tarzan, and the Perfect Man by John Kasson

The University of Mary Washington's 2013 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Thursday, February 14, with a lecture on Houdini by John Kasson, author of Houdini, Tarzan, and the Perfect Man:

 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.

Find out more about this lecture on the University of Mary Washington's web site.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are held at 7:30pm, in Dodd Auditorium, George Washington Hall, and are free and open to the public.

For more on this topic, check out these items from the library:

Houdini!:  The Career of Ehrich Weiss:  American Self-Liberator, Europe’s Eclipsing Sensation, World’s Handcuff King & Prison Breaker by Kenneth Silverman
Pulitzer winning author Silverman delivers an entertaining biography with a multitude of photographs.

Houdini:  Unlocking the Mystery directed by Michael Meadows (DVD)
Explores the life and magic of the great escape artist through his most prized possessions – the Chinese Water Torture Cell, the Milkcan, his straitjackets, handcuffs, and lockpicks.  (catalog summary)

The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini by Ruth Brandon
The author’s “exploration of the psychic landscape of one of the most enduringly famous performers of the twentieth century makes for utterly fascinating reading.”

Miracle Mongers and their Methods by Harry Houdini (eBook)
The famous magician turns a skeptic’s eye on psychics, mentalists, and illusionists.

The Secret Life of Houdini:  the Making of America’s First Superhero by William Kalush and Larry Sloman
Kalush and Sloman reveal the clandestine agreements in which the British and Americans recruited Houdini to be an active secret agent. In exchange for his cooperation, the governments of these two countries facilitated his rise to the top of the world stage. The authors give thrilling accounts of his assignments.  (catalog summary)

Biographical essays and literary criticism are available online through the library’s databases.  Visit LibraryPoint.org/research.