Publication Date

April 2019

Advisor(s)

Meg Furniss Weisberg

Major

*French Studies

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

While Tarzan has basked in global popularity since its creation, the Tarzan narrative was curiously popular in France in the 1930s, the decade in which the serialization (release in frequent and regular installments) of Tarzan novels, films, and comic books converged. Yet serialization cannot fully explain Tarzan’s cult French following. Instead, this thesis argues that the themes evoked in Tarzan acknowledged, supported, and resolved French ambitions and anxieties. These core themes subliminally resonated with French audiences: when contextualized in 1930s France, Tarzan may be understood as easing the cognitive dissonance underpinning French colonization of Africa. Key unifying concepts of “benevolent” colonization, the imagined “Africa,” la plus grande France, “civilization,” eugenics/evolution, and masculinity in the Tarzan narrative weave together to construct Tarzan as an emblem of the French colonial mission in Africa. These narrative themes, central to the Tarzan story, supported and reinforced the values and psychology underlying French colonization in the interwar period by constructing and making real idealized French fantasies.

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