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Making American Boys

Making American Boys: Boyology and the Feral Tale

Kenneth B. Kidd
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Making American Boys
    Book Description:

    Making American Boys is a thorough review of boy culture in America since the late nineteenth century. From the “boy work” promoted by character-building organizations such as Scouting and 4-H to current therapeutic and pop psychological obsessions with children’s self-esteem, Kenneth B. Kidd presents the great variety of cultural influences on the changing notion of boyhood.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9566-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Boyhood for Beginners: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    This is a book about discourses of boyhood. I argue that the ideological and practical work of boy education and supervision in America has been shaped by two main discourses:boyology,comprising descriptive and prescriptive writing on boyhood across a variety of genres, and what I call theferal tale,a narrative form derived from mythology and folklore that dramatizes but also manages the “wildness” of boys. Both boyology and the feral tale are implicated in larger historical narratives about human and cultural development. Boyology is primarily an American phenomenon, while the feral tale is international and interdisciplinary in scope...

  5. 1. Farming for Boys
    (pp. 23-48)

    Why do boys leave the farm? This question preoccupied both boy workers and agricultural historians in the early twentieth century. Industrialization, the city’s allure, the usurpation of family farms by big business: these are the familiar and more global answers, the “misty cloud of theories.” This anonymous poem, which graced the inside cover of the January 1920 issue of the YMCA journalRural Manhood,faults instead the farmer-father for demanding the boy’s labor but denying him proprietorship. The boy is responsible for the farm animals in their early stages—in fact, he is often likened to them in the residual...

  6. 2. Bad Boys and Men of Culture
    (pp. 49-86)

    In his best-selling bookA Is for Ox: The Collapse of Literacy and the Rise of Violence in an Electronic Age(1995), Barry Sanders warns that because of television, video games, and other mass media that allegedly compromise our growth from orality into literacy, the self is “falling away entirely from the human repertoire” (xi).¹ Orality and literacy, he argues, are both necessary for selfhood; lack or attenuation of either spells disaster. In illustration, Sanders points to the case of a feral boy, the nineteenth-century German wild child Kaspar Hauser². Confined in a cell and deprived of a normal childhood,...

  7. 3. Wolf-Boys, Street Rats, and the Vanishing Sioux
    (pp. 87-110)

    In the nineteenth century, as boyology was taking literary and institutional shape, the feral tale shifted in setting from Europe, the home of Victor of Aveyron and Kaspar Hauser, to colonial India, described by John Lockwood Kipling (Rudyard’s father) inBeast and Man in India: A Popular Sketch of Indian Animals in Their Relations with the People(1891) as the “cradle of wolf child stories” (318).¹ In the early nineteenth century, the feral tale was typically an Enlightenment story about the redeeming power of culture. Although both Victor and Kaspar were likened to animals, their caretakers clearly saw these boys...

  8. 4. Father Flanagan’s Boys Town
    (pp. 111-134)

    So far I’ve described boyology as a literary and institutional form of boy work and shown how boyology and the feral tale became virtually indistinguishable in and through particular genres of boys’ popular literature as well as character-building organizations. At issue in my next chapter is the harmony of boyology and the feral tale within and beyond psychoanalysis. But first I want to address another important venue of American boy work, one overlooked in histories of character building: Boys Town, now known as Boys and Girls Town. Founded in 1917 by Father Edward Joseph Flanagan, an Irish immigrant priest, to...

  9. 5. From Freud’s Wolf Man to Teen Wolf
    (pp. 135-166)

    In the early sections ofBook I: Freud’s Papers on Technique,1953–1954, Jacques Lacan makes use of two reports that suggest the significance of the feral tale in psychoanalysis. The first is a pioneering case study published by Melanie Klein in 1930 about her work with a four-year-old boy dubbed “little Dick.” Drawing from Klein’s own remarks about the boy’s lack of interest in communication or social interaction, Lacan concludes that the boy exists “completely in reality, in the pure state” of presymbolic life. Lacan’s faith in that “pure state” calls to mind the 1801 report of Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard...

  10. 6. Reinventing the Boy Problem
    (pp. 167-190)

    “Is your son physical, aggressive, difficult to manage at home and at school?” asks John Merrow in a 1998 edition of his NPR programThe Merrow Report,available on audiocassette asWill Boys Be Boys?If so, join the club.Merrow’s guest, therapist and best-selling author Michael Gurian, explains: “Males tend to be testosterone driven. You and I when we were fifteen years old got seven surges of testosterone per day,” and “testosterone is not a nurturing hormone; testosterone is a hormone that wants sex.” Those seven surges, in tandem with “hard wiring” in the brain, clearly distinguish boys from girls,...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 191-220)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 221-236)
  13. Index
    (pp. 237-254)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 255-255)