Academic journal article American Studies

BOYS AT HOME: Discipline, Masculinity, and "The Boy-Problem" in Nineteenth-Century American Literature

Academic journal article American Studies

BOYS AT HOME: Discipline, Masculinity, and "The Boy-Problem" in Nineteenth-Century American Literature

Article excerpt

BOYS AT HOME: Discipline, Masculinity, and "The Boy-Problem" in Nineteenth-Century American Literature. By Ken Parille. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. 2009.

Boys at Home examines nineteenth-century texts written for and about boys and makes the persuasive argument that the places of boys in the home, at work, in school, and at play must be examined in the context of complex ideologies connected to parenting, education, and national histories. Parille challenges "separate spheres" readings of children's books and addresses how boys and girls live, work, study, and play in spheres that intersect and are linked together. His book is organized into dis- cussions of "forms of pedagogy": "play-adventure, corporal punishment, sympathy, shame, and reading" (xiii). The study explores such forms as child-rearing advice, boys' conduct books, and boy books by women writers.

Chapter 1, "Work and Play, Pleasure and Pedagogy inNineteenth-Century Boys' Novels" explores how domestic ideology and childhood pedagogy shape how play is depicted in books for boys by Jacob Abbott and William Taylor Adams. He notes that representation of play connect to work and education, with work becoming play or adventure offering lessons. Chapter 2, "'Desirable and Necessary' in 'Families and Schools' : Boy-Nature and Physical Discipline," indicates that rather than focus only on physical discipline, nineteenth-century children's texts and parental advice manuals considered a variety of methods of discipline.

Chapter 3, '"The Medicine of Sympathy': Mothers, Sons, and Affective Peda- gogy in Antebellum America," focuses on concepts of sympathy in texts by Harriet Beecher Stowe and Catharine Maria Sedgwick, arguing that writers who examine the question of disciplining boys critique the nineteenth-century ideology of the all- sympathetic mother as able to change and tame boys. …

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