Saturday, December 5, 2009

American Boyhood from 1830-1885

The University of Tennessee Press has just released Boys at Home: Discipline, Masculinity, and 'The Boy-Problem' in Nineteenth-Century American Literature. I began the project around a decade ago, while a graduate student at the University of Virginia. A few chapters have been published along the way, but I feel a sense of relief and satisfaction that the book is finally in print.

A few related things:
1. An old Blog Flume post that has images from boys' books of the period, some of which appear in the book.
2. An uncorrected proof of part of the introduction (it's close to the final version).
3. An excerpt from the UTP's promotional copy:

. . . Ken Parille seeks to do for nineteenth-century boys what the past three decades of scholarship have done for girls: show how the complexities of the fiction and educational materials written about them reflect the lives they lived. While most studies of nineteenth-century boyhood have focused on post-Civil War male novelists, Parille explores a broader archive of writings by male and female authors, extending from 1830-1885.

Boys at Home offers a series of arguments about five pedagogical modes: play-adventure, corporal punishment, sympathy, shame, and reading. The first chapter demonstrates that, rather than encouraging boys to escape the bonds of domesticity, scenes of play in boys’ novels reproduce values associated with the home. Chapter 2 argues that debates about corporal punishment are crucial sources for the culture’s ideas about gender difference and pedagogical practice. In chapter 3, “The Medicine of Sympathy,” Parille examines the affective nature of mother-daughter and mother-son bonds, emphasizing the special difficulties that “boy-nature” posed for women. The fourth chapter uses boys’ conduct literature and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women – the preeminent chronicle of girlhood in the century – to investigate not only Alcott’s fictional representations of shame-centered discipline but also pervasive cultural narratives about what it means to “be a man.” Focusing on works by Lydia Sigourney and Francis Forrester, the final chapter considers arguments about the effects that fictional, historical, and biographical narratives had on a boy’s sense of himself and his masculinity . . .


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