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Iron John: A Book About Men

Robert Bly
Pages: 268
Published by Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc.
Publication date: 1990
ISBN: 0201517205 (hardback)
Published by Vintage Books
Publication date: 1992
ISBN: 0679731199 (paperback)

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In "a fascinating examination of myth, literature, psychology, and anthropology" (Newsday), National Book Award-winning poet and translator Robert Bly offers nothing less than a new vision of what it is to be a man. "Important and timely."--New York Times Book Review.

The renowned poet and author of A Gathering of Men helps men identify with their masculinity through a positive and supportive format for today's world of role conflicts.

Here, using the Grimm Fairy tale "Iron John" as a vehicle, Bly explores the myths and cultural underpinnings of a distinctly vigorous male mode of feeling, a combination of fierceness and tenderness long since sacrificed to the demands of the industrial revolution.


I want to know that you actually read the book before writing your paper. I will reassure myself by means of the following scheme. When you decide that you are going to read the book, come to me and I will give you a bookmark containing three sentences. As you read, you will spot these sentences and write their page numbers on the bookmark. Each bookmark will be different, so you can't just copy someone else's bookmark. Your bookmark must have your name and my signature on it.

A Tribal Reading Project?

How in the world can we have a book as a tribal project? My goal in assigning the book in this fashion is to promote discussion within the tribe. Every member of the tribe is responsible for reading the entire book. You may form your tribe before reading the book or you may read the book and then form a tribe with others who have also read it. The tribe will then meet at least once to discuss the book. This is your chance to flesh out the ideas presented in the book in preparation for the discussion you will have with me.

Criteria for Success

Each member of the tribe should bring his book mark with him. I will then ask each member a different question concerning the book. These questions will be open-ended discussion questions. Other tribe members may jump in with comments but each tribe member is primarily responsible for answering the question I addressed to him. Some example questions include:

These are simply examples of questions I might ask. My hope is that they will be jumping off points for a thoughtful and interesting discussion of the book rather than questions to be answered in a few words.