Boyhoods: Rethinking Masculinities

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"In this analysis of masculinity, the reader is propelled by stories of all kinds of boys. As Ken Corbett writes in his introduction, "No two boyhoods are the same. No one boy remains invariable." Arguing for a new psychology of masculinity that is grounded in his clinical practice and in a dynamic reading of feminist and queer theory, Corbett shows that there are many ways to be a boy, and many ways for boys to achieve well-being." How are boys made between the body, the family, and the culture? How do boys grow up in a social world? How do we account for the inner life of boys? How are boys built amid fantasies and social norms? These are just some of the questions Corbett addresses as he urges us to open our definition of masculinity to include the many boys whose lives do not meet restrictive masculine expectation. He turns to his own practice to illuminate such issues as cultural and parental pressures on feminine boys and the experiences of boys raised by single parents or by parents of the same gender. He pays particular attention to boys' anxiety about being small and their pressing desire to grow big. In the spirit of Carol Gilligan's classic In a Different Voice, Boyhoods seeks to release boys from the grip of expectation.

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Editorial Reviews

Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche

"In this impressive and ground-breaking book, Ken Corbett suggests new ways of theorizing about the meaning of masculine embodiments. In addition, through his stories of boyhoods and his personal reflections on the masculine energies encountered in his work with boys, Corbett brings us to the flesh experiences of developing masculinity."--Susan McKenzie, Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche

— Susan McKenzie

Adam Phillips
"Ken Corbett has not needed to tell a new story about masculinity because he has so many new stories to tell. Weaving together clinical experience and diversely illuminating theoretical approaches Corbett has managed to do justice to the singularity of each boy's experience of growing up, without having to give up on the generalities of developmental theory. There has never been a book, written from a psychoanalytic perspective, so amused and amusing and subtle about gender. The masculinities described in Boy Hoods, and the way Corbett has found to write about the subject, will radically change how we talk about boys growing up."—Adam Phillips, Psychoanalyst
Judith Butler
“In Boyhoods, Ken Corbett teaches us how to think gender again, as if for the first time. With exceptional sensitivity and lucidity, his deft readings of texts and case studies together constitute a terrific literary achievement. Corbett is a writer of enormous heart, an extraordinary capacity to listen and to tell, one whose patience and care becomes a new methodology for thinking through how gender is formed, performed, and made anew. For "boys" who live to the side of the norm, or as its very underside, there is a desire to know whether finally there is someone there, who can see, play, listen, and offer safe company for fantasy and aliveness. Corbett tells and listens in a way from which we all might learn something crucial about how to be there for others in the midst of such vulnerable, passionate, and confusing scenes of gender emergence.”—Judith Butler, author of Gender Trouble (1990), Bodies that Matter (1993), and

Undoing Gender (2004)

Tony Kushner
“Boy Hoods is a magnificently articulate guide not for the perplexed but rather towards perplexity, towards the curiosity, the intellectual exploration, and, perhaps most importantly, the respect without which understanding human psychology and sexuality is impossible. Through a critical examination of psychoanalytic literature and theory, starting with a brilliant reconsideration of Freud’s Little Hans; through superbly rendered, incisively considered case histories from his own practice as an analyst and child psychologist, Corbett offers new possibilities of theorizing, analyzing and imagining masculinity. He writes with gentle, unassailable reason, marvelous empathy, playful, subversive wit, and scrupulous self-examination and courage. This is a beautiful contribution to the all-import ant work of undoing the monadic, ‘fossilized’ version of masculinity which lamentably remains our social and therapeutic norm, to the task of recognizing, treating and conceptualizing boy’s and men’s capacity for affectional attachment.”—Tony Kushner
Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche - Susan McKenzie
"In this impressive and ground-breaking book, Ken Corbett suggests new ways of theorizing about the meaning of masculine embodiments. In addition, through his stories of boyhoods and his personal reflections on the masculine energies encountered in his work with boys, Corbett brings us to the flesh experiences of developing masculinity."—Susan McKenzie, Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche
Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Based in his extensive work with nontraditional families (including same-gender couples raising children) and years of research into non-normative gender behaviors, practicing psychoanalyst Corbett outlines an elastic psychoanalytical model for examining male desire, while confronting society's reliance on traditional masculinity narratives. Corbett isn't afraid of questioning any existing school of thought: Does a strict, heterosexual reading of the oedipal triangle still functions in modern analysis? Should boyhood femininity be suppressed in favor of the gender binary? Can aggression be a productive, even healthy, quality among men? Corbett's frank discussion of the emotional and sexual fluidity of boyhood play, as well as his honest assessment of himself as both a gay man and a professional, go a long way toward expanding the boundaries and methodology for understanding boyhood. Practitioners facing what Corbett calls a "category crisis" with their patients will find this most useful, but a wider audience should get caught up in Corbett's social, cultural, psychological, and biological critique. More case studies would produced a richer experience, especially for concerned men, but Borbett's praise-worthy challenge to still-persistent myths of masculinity is an absorbing read that pushes psychoanalysis into the 21st century.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300149845
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 9/22/2009
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Ken Corbett is Clinical Assistant Professor at the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis and an analyst in practice with adults and children in New York City. He lives in New York.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Pt. I Boys, Masculinity, and the Family

Ch. 1 Little Hans: Masculinity Foretold 19

Ch. 2 Nontraditional Family Reverie: Masculinity Unfolds 52

Pt. II Boys, Masculinity, and Gender's Divide

Ch. 3 Boyhood Femininity: Masculine Presuppositions and the Anxiety of Regulation 87

Ch. 4 Trans States: Feminine Boys and the Therapeutic Scene of Address 120

Pt. III Boys, Masculinity, and Phallic Narcissism

Ch. 5 Faggot = Loser: Phallic Narcissism as Defense 173

Ch. 6 Fantastic Phallicism: Recognition, Relation, and Phallic Narcissism 208

Notes 235

References 249

Index 265

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