Boyhoods: Rethinking Masculinities

Overview

Familiar and expected gender patterns help us to understand boys but often constrict our understanding of any given boy. Writing in a wonderfully robust and engaging voice, Ken Corbett argues for a new psychology of masculinity, one that is not strictly dependent on normative expectation. As he writes in his introduction, “no two boys, no two boyhoods are the same.” In Boy Hoods Corbett seeks to release boys from the grip of expectation as Mary Pipher did for girls in Reviving ...

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Boyhoods: Rethinking Masculinities

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Overview

Familiar and expected gender patterns help us to understand boys but often constrict our understanding of any given boy. Writing in a wonderfully robust and engaging voice, Ken Corbett argues for a new psychology of masculinity, one that is not strictly dependent on normative expectation. As he writes in his introduction, “no two boys, no two boyhoods are the same.” In Boy Hoods Corbett seeks to release boys from the grip of expectation as Mary Pipher did for girls in Reviving Ophelia.

Corbett grounds his understanding of masculinity in his clinical practice and in a dynamic reading of feminist and queer theories. New social ideals are being articulated. New possibilities for recognition are in play. How is a boy made between the body, the family, and the culture? Does a boy grow by identifying with his father, or by separating from his mother? Can we continue to presume that masculinity is made at home? Corbett uses case studies to defy stereotypes, depicting masculinity as various and complex. He examines the roles that parental and cultural anxiety play in development, and he argues for a more nuanced approach to cross-gendered fantasy and experience, one that does not mistake social consensus for well-being. Corbett challenges us at last to a fresh consideration of gender, with profound implications for understanding all boys.

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Editorial Reviews

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.

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
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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300171211
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 3/29/2011
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (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

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

Part I Boys, Masculinity, and the Family

Chapter 1 Little Hans: Masculinity Foretold 19

Chapter 2 Nontraditional Family Reverie: Masculinity Unfolds 52

Part II Boys, Masculinity, and Gender's Divide

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

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

Part III Boys, Masculinity, and Phallic Narcissism

Chapter 5 Faggot=Loser: Phallic Narcissism as Defense 173

Chapter 6 Fantastic Phallicism: Recognition, Relation, and Phallic Narcissism 208

Notes 235

References 249

Index 265

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