Groth, Miles, Janssen, Diederik F., Thymos
With far too many scholarly journals out there now, why launch yet another? Hurried readers may never recognize what THYMOS is about unless they get past the first word to what follows: Journal of Boyhood Studies. That may happen in quite a few cases at first, but we are convinced that once underway, THYMOS will take its place among the best interdisciplinary journals in English. Boys, we believe, have something to teach us about the body, sexuality, spirituality and the imagination and, for that reason, without wishing to be excessive, we want to emphasize our conviction that the subject matter of THYMOSboys and boyhoodis central to everyone's self-understanding as a human being in what will very soon be a thoroughgoing global culture.
We have conceived of THYMOS as a journal that is dedicated, first and foremost, to helping us especially in the developed West clearly see a phenomenon that is by no means intuitively obvious"the boy." In its pages we want to explore whether boyhood is unique to certain cultures or a given historical period, or whether it has fundamental ontological status. It may well turn out that boyhood is an intellectual artifact of European-American modernity, or it may be that boyhood is cross-culturally ubiquitous, for example, in relation to manhood. Here we have in mind David Gilmore's argument from an anthropological perspective for the near universality of manhood in Manhood in the Making. As for the ubiquity of boyhood, we must wait to see. We hope that the studies appearing in THYMOS will help us decide.
THYMOS is dedicated to "saving the phenomenon," as Aristotle said, that is, being true to what we call boyhood and its incarnations in those human specimens we in the West call boys. Following Kenneth Kidd, we favor reviving the term boyology as a more formal name for boyhood studies. Recently, Kidd has examined early 20th century "boy work" in his Making American Boys: Boyology and the Feral Tale. The term "boyology" turned up in 1916, during World War I, as the title of a book on the biological and social development of boys written by a leader of the YMCA, Henry William Gibson. But what did Gibson and his predecessors, beginning in 1844 when the YMCA was founded, have in mind when writing about boys "that they may all be one"? This was the very year it just so happens, that the famous proverb originated: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." But what was a boy then and what is he now? What is the provenance of boyhood in our cultural imagination and how does the phenomenon jibe, if at all, with how we see male human beings until pubarche and several yearsperhaps as long as a decadebeyond? One thing is clear to us. In the West, boyhood has come to extend well past puberty. For that reason, the studies and reflections published in THYMOS will encompass the years from early and middle childhood to the beginning of the male's third decade of life.
But who decides these matters, the end of infancy and the beginning of boyhood, and the end of boyhood and male adolescence? Further questions arise: Can we speak of boyhood unless we already have a notion of manhood with which to contrast it at its end? Is there a meaningful relationship between boyhood and girlhood? While all are children, are girls and boys analogous types? What does "the boy" signify? What does the phenomenon indicate? Is "the boy" the same everywhere? What purposes do boys serve in various cultures?
If we can confirm and describe the ontological status of the boy, we will then be in a position to begin to see what he is and what boyhood-"the state of being a boy; the time of life during which one is a boy"-means. The word boyhood seems to be the invention of Jonathan Swift almost exactly a century before the American association for "young men" was instituted. Swift himself makes a clear distinction between boyhood and manhood. Perhaps, then, we have an important clue about this "time of life" and the relation of boyhood to manhood. …