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Parles nous de ta boite 25/06

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Boyishness ##HOT##

Carol Mavor is professor of art history and visual studies at the University of Manchester, and the author of Becoming: The Photographs of Clementina, Viscountess, Hawarden (1999) and Pleasures Taken: Performance of Sexuality and Loss in Victorian Photographs (1995). Her book Reading Boyishly (2007) is a study of boyishness in the lives and works of Roland Barthes, J. M. Barrie, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Marcel Proust, and D. W. Winnicott. Brian Dillon spoke to her in London.


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Mr. Millar was deftly (and sometimes daftly) keen on verbal tricks and antics , an incorrigible punster, an epigrammatist. He tosses scaly cliches on their heads, and they grow new tails. He is rarely without a good axiom to grind (though they often acquire a novel edge, as, for example, ''What can be cured should not be endured''). It's fun if you like that sort of thing and endearingly groanworthy if you're not so sure. Either which way, you can't miss his gift for the unpredictable and his mischievous boyishness.

Carol Mavor, a Californian and a professor of art history now based in England, has gathered five figures, loosely collected around the idea of the boy or the boyish. The French structuralist critic Roland Barthes was "boyishly" attached to his mother all his life--and sometimes secured the services of other boys. J. M. Barrie notoriously immortalized his devotion to the five brothers in Peter Pan, by some measures the most successful play ever written. Jacques Henri Lartigue was from early boyhood a photographer and celebrant of the French belle epoque, capturing such subjects as well-to-do Parisian life, early attempts at flight, friends on holiday, and in general the leisurely moments that preceded World War I. Marcel Proust, of course, embarked on his great novel sequence In Search of Lost Time as a much older man, retaining in many ways the helplessness of a child or "spoiled boy" and using the boyishness of Marcel, the narrator and protagonist, to distract us from the author's own sophistication. D. W. Winnicott was an eminent English child psychoanalyst of the 1960's, renowned for the concept of the "good-enough mother."

Of course, being a boy isn't merely a state of mind; it's also about a period of life where a young male is sexually capable but physically underdeveloped. Historically, this period, often short, has been in the foreground of cultural celebrations of the beauty of the male form, from Apollo on. Mavor's subjects tend to celebrate the gamin in others, while regretting the loss of it in themselves. In Roland Barthes, Barthes mourned the loss of his physical boyishness, the "sudden mutation of the body... changing (or appearing to change) from slender to plump." 041b061a72

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