The Lost Boys of Zeta Psi: A Historical Archaeology of Masculinity at a University Fraternity

The Lost Boys of Zeta Psi: A Historical Archaeology of Masculinity at a University Fraternity

The Lost Boys of Zeta Psi: A Historical Archaeology of Masculinity at a University Fraternity

The Lost Boys of Zeta Psi: A Historical Archaeology of Masculinity at a University Fraternity

Synopsis

The Lost Boys of Zeta Psi takes us inside the secret, amusing, and sometimes mundane world of a California fraternity around 1900. Gleaning history from recent archaeological excavations and from such intriguing sources as oral histories, architecture, and photographs, Laurie A. Wilkie uncovers details of everyday life in the first fraternity at the University of California, Berkeley, and sets this story into the rich social and historical context of West Coast America at the turn of the last century. In particular, Wilkie examines men's coming-of-age experiences in a period when gender roles and relations were undergoing dramatic changes. Her innovative study illuminates shifting notions of masculinity and at the same time reveals new insights about the inner workings of fraternal orders and their role in American society.

Excerpt

Some say that we are different people at all different
periods of our lives, changing not through effort of will,
which is a brave affair, but in the easy course of nature
every ten years or so. … I think one remains the
same person throughout, merely passing, as it were, in
these lapses of time from one room to another, but all in
the same house. If we unlock the rooms of the far past
we can peer in and see ourselves, busily occupied in the
beginning to become you and me.

JAMES BARRIE, in the dedication to Peter Pan, or the Boy
Who Would Not Grow Up

In June of 1907, San Francisco was still reeling from the ongoing impacts of the great earthquake and fire that had physically and psychically gutted the city in April 1906. While electricity, telephone, and car service had been restored, and the sounds of rebuilding echoed in every corner of the city, residents could not help but be exhausted and overwhelmed by the tasks still to be faced. The reopening of theaters and cultural life became an important marker of the city’s revival, and in the months following the earthquake, established vaudeville acts and theater greats like Sandra Bernhardt toured the area. On June 11, 1907, at the Van Ness Theater, beloved actress Maude Adams starred in the West Coast premiere of James Barrie’s newest hit play, Peter Pan.

Under the headline “Sane Adults Unblushingly Tell Peter Pan They Believe in Fairies,” James Crawford, critic for the San Francisco Call, proclaimed, “The play’s purity appeals to our best nature, it imbues us with yearning to acquire an idealism that may lighten our load of sordidness. And this subtle appeal of Peter Pan was never more needed than at this time, in this community.” San Franciscans were not the only Americans to embrace Peter Pan. In New York, the play broke the audience attendance records of the Empire Theater, running there for two years. What drew American audiences to this play? In his review, Crawford attempts to explain the appeal:

It grips and holds your interest with the intensity of the most intense drama ever
staged. Its author’s intention, evidently, was to sketch a fantasy of youth and to

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