Boys and Men Reading Shakespeare’s 1 Henry 4: Using Service-Learning Strategies to Accommodate Male Learners and to Disseminate Male-Positive Literacy

By Dennis S. Gouws.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Literacy scholars such as Ralph Fletcher and Thomas Newkirk have suggested perceptive ways to understand masculine cultures and to enable boys’ and men’s literacy. Service-learning strategies could usefully augment this male-positive scholarly work in praxis: these strategies promote active, participatory learning; they encourage reflection on the learning process; they enable this learning to take place in real-life situations; they assume that learning often occurs in a broader context than the traditional classroom; and they promote caring for others. Approaching boys’ and men’s education with this kind of respect for their diverse learning circumstances could productively involve boys, men, and their teachers in practical male-positive learning; moreover, participating in this kind of service learning could help disseminate strategies for male-positive literacy.

Shakespeare’s 1 Henry 4 offers challenging but fruitful occasions to accommodate male readers; this play also affords educators opportunities to encourage male-positive literacy in praxis. In addition to dramatizing the coming-of-age of Prince Hal, 1 Henry 4 contains dynamic and vital events that lend themselves to the types of male-friendly writing (for example, sports journalism, creative nonfiction, horror, graphic novels, and comic books) discussed by Fletcher and Newkirk.

This paper discusses qualitative research into the process and the outcomes of a male-positive service-learning project given in my senior-year college-level Shakespeare class. Students worked with me to develop male-positive service-learning strategies with the goal of both engaging boys and men (from these students’ own communities) with 1 Henry 4 and encouraging male-positive literacy.

Keywords: Service Learning, Male-Positive Masculinities, Boys’ and Men’s Literacy, Shakespeare

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 16, Issue 10, pp.483-496. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.273MB).

Dr. Dennis S. Gouws

Associate Professor of English, Humanities Department, Springfield College, Springfield, Massachusetts, USA

Dr. Dennis Gouws is an Associate Professor at Springfield College and a Lecturer at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. His research and teaching interests include masculinities, the manhood question in Victorian literature, and the male-positive education of men and boys. He has published essays on men’s issues and is writing a book on masculinities in George Eliot’s novels.


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