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Michael R. M. Ward and Thomas Thurnell-Read

This special issue of Boyhood Studies considers how a group of international scholars have engaged with the concepts of boyhood and belonging as a complex personal and powerful process. In different ways, the authors highlight how belonging is an ongoing negotiation within one’s surroundings. The international research presented here compels us to conceptualize belonging and boyhood as something that is not only infused with individuals and collective histories, but also interwoven within different conceptions of place and space. These places and spaces are experienced in multiple ways within different social contexts. We contend that this special issue is positioned at an important time in studies of boys and young men. As boys and young men experience their transition into adulthood with increased precarity, it is time we take theories of boyhood and belonging seriously. These theories can open up new spaces and provide critical insights into young lives.

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Heather Ellis

This introductory article explains the aims of the interdisciplinary conference “Masculinity and the Other” held at Balliol College, Oxford, August 29-30, 2007, at which all of the papers comprising this special issue of Thymos: Journal of Boyhood Studies were first presented. It points out the prominence which the notions of the “boy” and boyhood and the life-cycle enjoyed at the conference and seeks more generally to suggest the benefits a more fully integrated discussion of these topics might bring to the fields of masculinity and gender studies.

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Catherine Emerson

This article explores attitudes toward boyhood shaped by the traumatic experiences of the First World War. It focuses particularly on the work of the little-known French author, Paul Cazin, and his attempts to commemorate the entirety of “the lost generation” by transcending divisions of religion and secularism that characterized boyhood activities in France before the war. The figure of the “Manneken-Pis” enables him to do this and is particularly suited to the expression of conflicting attitudes toward militarism in boyhood. Cazin’s intellectual program leads to a reading of the famous Manneken-Pis fountain depicting a urinating boy as a religious artifact. A variety of interwar responses to the statue demonstrate the strength of emotion provoked by the figure of the young boy. The fact that these responses have been enshrined in modern cultural and artistic practices suggests the extent to which the experience of the First World War still conditions attitudes toward boyhood.

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Anne Markey

This article explores the construction of boyhood in short fiction written by Patrick Pearse, the Irish nationalist and political activist executed for his leading role in the abortive Easter Rising of 1916. Pearse’s focus on the spiritual dimension of boyhood in his first collection of Irish-language stories, Íosagán agus Sgéalta Eile [Iosagan and Other Stories] (1907), simultaneously undermines and endorses imperialist and patriarchal assumptions about gender differentiation. In later stories published in An Mháthair agus sgéalta eile [The Mother and Other Stories] (1916), Pearse moved from advocacy of boyish spirituality to a more physical and militant representation of boyhood. This changing representation of Irish boyhood illustrates how Pearse’s increasing militarism reflected his ongoing construction of national identity.

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Introduction

Theorizing Boys’ Literacies and Boys’ Literatures in Contemporary Times

Garth Stahl and Cynthia Brock

This special issue of Boyhood Studies, entitled “Contemporary Boys’ Literacies and Boys’ Literatures,” is composed of international cutting-edge research focused on boys’ formal and informal literacy practices, boys’ engagements with a variety of texts, as well as gender-focused/gender-critical teaching practices in the literacy classroom. The articles interrogate how boys are positioned and how they position themselves within their acquisition of literacy skills. The research presented highlights the diversity and complexity of boys’ literacy practices. The scholars contend that how we define literacy is undergoing change alongside significant alterations to traditional cultural practices associated with boyhood. We see attention drawn to how these literacy practices operate in relation to the formation of boys’ masculinities in terms of how they do boyhood in contemporary times.

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Judy Y. Chu, Murray Drummond, Peter Redman, Gary Alan Fine, Robert Morrell, Amanda Keddie, Neill Korobov, Diederik F. Janssen, Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli, Mary Jane Kehily, Sami Timimi, Murray Pomerance and Ronald F. Levant

The following are responses to a request to the members of our editorial board and contributors to Thymos on the theme of the status of boyhood studies. The twelve contributions take quite different perspectives on the topic. They raise very different questions and present distinctive interests. All have trained their scholarly eye on what boyhood studies means today. Each points to an area of scholarly work that demands the attention of those of us interested in boyhood and the lives of boyhood—as we determine just what these notions mean. Suggestions for further reading offered by the contributors are given at the end (p. 147).

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The Concept of Sentimental Boyhood

The Emotional Education of Boys in Mexico during the Early Porfiriato, 1876–1884

Carlos Zúñiga Nieto

This article explores the popularization of the concept of sentimental boyhood during the anticolonial insurrections in the Ten Years’ War (1868– 1878) and the Caste War (1847–1901) in Cuba and the Yucatán Peninsula in the early 1870s. The concept was popularized as childhood advocates articulated a uniquely Mexican emotional standard in the process of child-rearing, promoting the individual cultivation of honor, the management of anger, and the use of fear as discipline. Beginning in the 1870s, Mexican educators popularized theories of boyhood drawing on European notions of boyhood, including work by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. While educators promoted Rousseau’s and Pestalozzi’s “sentimental notions of boyhood” in rural Yucatán, pedagogues in Mexico City advocated the use of fear to instill obedience among boys.

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Martin Ashley, Jürgen Budde, Andrew Calimach, Heather Ellis, Pauline Farley, Stephen T. Graef, Diederik Janssen, Amanda Keddie, Bertha Mook, Peter Redman and Maria Elena Reyes

For this, the sixth issue of Thymos, which will conclude its third year of publication and with a lively plan of upcoming issues already in place, I asked the members of our editorial board and all past contributors to Thymos to informally respond to this question: “As someone who has written about ‘the boy’ and ‘boyhood’, how do you conceptualize and define these terms as you begin to study and write about issues facing ‘boys’, in the cities, in rural settings, in schools, in various contemporary cultures?” I also suggested that the meaning of “the boy” and “boyhood” may, in fact, be the central issue of boyhood studies at this point. The question elicited eleven remarkably different responses, which follow.

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Pamela Bettis and Brandon Sternod

Scholars claim that the six films comprising the Star Wars epic are the United States’ most important modern myth. The films have meaning for contemporary lives and serve as reflections of the fears, anxieties, and hopes surrounding what many perceive to be a crisis of masculinity manifested in the current boy crisis. This article describes how the films explore possibilities for a different kind of boyhood and how they contribute to understanding competing explanations for the boy crisis.

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Clifton Edward Watkins

Over the course of the past century, the dominant psychoanalytic paradigm for understanding boyhood and male gender identity development has been grounded in two complementary visions: Freud’s original formulations and, later, the propositions of Ralph Greenson and Robert Stoller. Each of those visions, history suggests, contain a certain harshness, rigidity, and fixity about gender roles and can even be seen as supporting an unhealthy bifurcation between male and female. In the last generation of psychoanalytic scholarship, a viable alternative vision about boyhood and “boys becoming men”—what I term the “post-structuralist psychoanalytic view”—has emerged and increasingly gained structure, definition, and traction. In this paper, I identify some of the important elements of that evolving vision (still very much a work in progress), review briefly three robust areas of current post-structural focus, and consider some of the differences between past and present conceptualizations. While not ignoring pathology and dysfunction, the post-structural psychoanalytic vision also gives voice to health and function, variation and differentiation, creation and construction, and “more life”; it can be seen as a reclamation of the positive and a celebration of the infinite hope, promise, and possibility of all that is boys and boyhood.