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Boys at Home

Discipline, Masculinity, and "The Boy-Problem" in Nineteenth-Century American Literature

Ken Parille

Publication Year: 2009

In this groundbreaking book, Ken Parille seeks to do for nineteenth-century boys what the past three decades of scholarship have done for girls: show how the complexities of the fiction and educational materials written about them reflect the lives they lived. While most studies of nineteenth-century boyhood have focused on post-Civil War male novelists, Parille explores a broader archive of writings by male and female authors, extending from 1830-1885. Boys at Home offers a series of arguments about five pedagogical modes: play-adventure, corporal punishment, sympathy, shame, and reading.

Published by: The University of Tennessee Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix-x

At the University of Virginia: Steven Railton, the director of my dissertation, whose belief in my work, and the strength and clarity of his own teaching and scholarship, were inspirational. Marion Rust, the second reader, whose commentary on my work was invaluable. Jennifer Wicke, Eric Lott, Steve Arata, Elizabeth Fowler, Gordon Braden, John Sullivan, Laura Smolkin, the English ...

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Introduction: Literary Critics and “The Boy”

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pp. xi-xxviii

In many ways, the figure of “the boy” has been at the center of our understanding of nineteenth-century literature and culture in the United States. Boy characters like Tom Sawyer and the “good bad-boys” that followed in his wake have been seen as crucial metaphors for numerous kinds of male-centered literary, political, social, economic, and moral value systems. As the visionary young ...

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Chapter 1. Work and Play, Pleasure and Pedagogy in Nineteenth-Century Boys’ Novels

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pp. 1-16

Exchanges like this, which have occurred with family, friends, and fellow scholars, attest to the role that the works of Twain have had, and continue to have, in defining nineteenth-century American boyhood. Tom, Huck, and their respective novels represent to us a theory of boy-nature (mischievous, but good-hearted), an archetypal narrative of boyhood adventure, a new way to ...

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Chapter 2. “Desirable and Necessary” in “Families and Schools”: Boy-Nature and Physical Discipline

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pp. 17-42

When Twain depicts corporal punishment in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, he often exposes the sadism of the person who inflicts it, an approach in stark contrast to that taken by Forrester in Dick Duncan. And just as Twain’s version of antebellum boyhood and his embrace of “boys will be boys” pedagogy should not be seen as the mainstream view during the period, neither should his ...

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Chapter 3. “The Medicine of Sympathy”: Mothers, Sons, and Affective Pedagogy in Antebellum America

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pp. 43-60

As we saw in the last chapter, debates about discipline often centered on the respective merits of two approaches: corporal punishment and moral suasion. Many educators argued that physical discipline was particularly effective with boys because hitting a boy was speaking to him in a language he could understand: that of the body. The success of moral suasion, however, was not ...

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Chapter 4. “Wake Up, and Be a Man”: Little Women, Shame, and the Ethic of Submission

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pp. 61-78

During the past twenty-five years, Little Women has been at the heart of the feminist project of reading texts by nineteenth-century American women. A primary reason for the extensive interest in Alcott’s novel is its discussion of the cultural spaces women occupied, or were excluded from, during the mid- and late-nineteenth century. Although critics have disagreed about the novel’s ...

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Chapter 5. “What Our Boys Are Reading”: Lydia Sigourney, Francis Forrester, and Boyhood Literacy

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pp. 79-96

In his semiautobiographical novel The Story of a Bad Boy, Thomas Bailey Aldrich describes a moment when the young protagonist, Tom Bailey, discovers a trunk of books in the family home: “I subsequently unearthed another motley collection of novels and romances, embracing the adventures of Baron Trenck, Jack Sheppard, Don Quixote, Gil Blas, and Charlotte Temple—all of ...

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Coda: “Real Boys” of the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries: Educators, Academics, and Sociologists on Boyhood

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pp. 97-102

In Good Girl Messages: How Young Women Were Misled by Their Favorite Books, Deborah O’Keefe surveys girls’ literature from the nineteenth century on, showing the ways in which it offers limiting ideas about female experience, ones that reflect widespread cultural narratives about girls and femininity. Written for a general audience, O’Keefe’s book doesn’t challenge critical assumptions ...


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pp. 103-120

Works Cited

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pp. 121-138


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pp. 139-153

E-ISBN-13: 9781572336889
E-ISBN-10: 1572336889
Print-ISBN-13: 9781572337879
Print-ISBN-10: 1572337877

Page Count: 184
Illustrations: 6 line drawings
Publication Year: 2009