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The Birth of a JungleAnimality in Progressive-Era U.S. Literature and Culture$
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Michael Lundblad

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199917570

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199917570.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 02 August 2021

Black Savage, White Animal

Black Savage, White Animal

Tarzan’s American Jungle

(p.139) 6 Black Savage, White Animal
The Birth of a Jungle

Michael Lundblad

Oxford University Press

Readings of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan of the Apes (1914) tend to conflate Tarzan’s “others,” suggesting that there is little difference between the apes and the savages he encounters or that the primary distinction to make is between Tarzan and everyone else. We are often told that Tarzan evolves from ape to savage to the epitome of a racist, sexist, imperialist, American man, who is defined by the restraint of his animal/savage instincts. The implication would appear to be that “the savage” (and therefore the African American) is “higher” in evolutionary terms than the animal, and that white Americans should be seen as closer to savages than animals. The argument in this chapter is that this evolutionary logic is disrupted by the novel, suggesting that animality can first be distinguished from savagery and second elevated above savagery in a disavowal of the evolutionary link between (black) savagery and (white) humanity. Distinguishing between various forms of primate violence in the novel allows us to see a more complicated construction of U.S. race relations and to view the novel as more than a straightforward allegory of white masculinity defined against other, darker “races.”

Keywords:   animality, blackness, whiteness, savagery, animal, beast, jungle, evolution, Edgar Rice Burroughs

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