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Boyhoods: Rethinking Masculinities Hardcover – September 22, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.


"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
(Adam Phillips)

“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)

(Judith Butler)

“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
(Tony Kushner)

"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 Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300149840
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300149845
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,097,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. Giles on September 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Boyhoods reminds me of Friday Night Lights--everyone told me to watch it but I resisted for months, thinking, jeez, the last thing I want to watch is a show about a small town's football team. Thinking it had nothing to do with me. Corbett turns the subject of masculinities into a revelation about boys, girls, men, women, all of us who fall into categories, with a precision of mind and prose that recalls Joan Didion. His writing is a relief: poetic yet careful and concise but not wooden. He also confides his own thoughts, fears, and joys about the subject and his performance as a doctor, which is a rare thing indeed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D. Hopson on September 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Boyhoods is essential reading not only for queer and feminist theorists, but for those who seldom think of gender or the role it plays in their lives. With great wisdom, wit, and empathy, Corbett shows us the ways in which gender matters--should matter, must matter--to us all.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A reader from Boston, MA on February 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I had great hopes for this book on reading the praises and the introduction. However the text itself proved impossible to comprehend. The case studies were written in English, but the analyses were in psychoanalytic dialect which I found impenetrable. If this is a groundbreaking book, as some claim, then why was it not translated into conventional English? A very typical example: "The punishments for not heeding the demands of this normative compact also compel our belief in the binary's natural authority." I struggled through the first chapter but had to concede defeat. I doubt that anyone not schooled in this arcane dialect would do better. This is not a book for the lay person.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A very accessible, thoughtful and useful discourse on a very complex subject. Compassionate, engaging and directly applicable to clinical practice.
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By Ronald N Marcus on January 15, 2015
Format: Paperback
An excellent, erudite, yet readable book with provocative, groundbreaking ideas and moving clinical material.
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