What is a Man?: The Refuting of the Chivalric Ideal at the Turn of the Century

  • Sandra Martina Schwab


By the last decades of the nineteenth century, Victorian society was in a crisis. Darwin’s writings had challenged all the old beliefs about God’s creation and man’s place within it. The losses in the imperial wars had led people to question the basic Victorian concept of progress, whereas democratic reforms had begun to erode the old power structures within society, and new laws concerning marital property and divorce had changed the balance of power within marriage.1 Thus, masculinity itself had become unstable and was thrown into a crisis of its own (8). What help then could a nostalgic yearning for bygone ages offer when dealing with modern times? Consequently, from the 1890s onward the medieval ideal for male behavior came under increasing attack, and this is especially true for the image of the knight in shining armor. To fully understand the deconstruction of the chivalric ideal, however, it is important to first take a look at the ideal itself.2


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Copyright information

© Lorretta M. Holloway and Jennifer A. Palmgren 2005

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  • Sandra Martina Schwab

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