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

  • Sandra Martina Schwab

Abstract

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

Keywords

Fairy Tale Initial Inability Carnegie Museum Patron Saint Courtly Love 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Joseph A. Kestner, Masculinities in Victorian Painting (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1995), 7–8.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For a more detailed analysis of the chivalric ideal see Joseph A. Kestner, “The Return of St. George 1850–1915,” King Arthur’s Modern Return, ed. Debra N. Mancoff (New York: Garland, 1998), 83–98, andGoogle Scholar
  3. Philip Mason, The English Gentleman: The Rise and Fall of an Ideal (London: André Deutsch, 1982), but especiallyGoogle Scholar
  4. Mark Girouard, The Return to Camelot: Chivalry and the English Gentleman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981).Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    Girouard, Return to Camelot, 20–21. See also Richard Davenport-Hines, Gothic: Four Hundred Years of Excess, Horror, Evil and Ruin (New York: North Point, 1998). He includes pictures and photographs of Gothic-designed gardens and castles from Alexander Pope to Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill that inspired him to write The Castle of Otranto. Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See Sue Birtwistle and Susie Conklin, Stolz und Vorurteil: Die Welt der Jane Austen, trans. Sabine Lorenz and Felix Seewöster (Köln: vgs, 1997), 52.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    See Lloyd Sanders, The Holland House Circle, 1908 (New York: Benjamin Blom, 1969), 103.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    Donald E. Hall, “Muscular Christianity: Reading and Writing the Male Social Body,” in Muscular Christianity: Embodying the Victorian Age, ed. Donald E. Hall, Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture, no. 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 13.
    See Sandra M. Gilbert, “Literature of the Nineteenth Century,” in The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Traditions in English, ed. Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, 2nd ed. (New York: Norton, 1996), 289–290.Google Scholar
  10. 18.
    Robert Baden-Powell, Scouting for Boys: Boys’ Edition, 1932, abridged ed. (London: Arthur Pearsons, 1954), 145.Google Scholar
  11. 28.
    See V. T. J. Arkell, Britain Transformed: The Development of British Society Since the Mid-Eighteenth Century (Harmondsworth: Penguin Education, 1973), 83 and 115–118; and “The Victorian Age,” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, ed. M. H. Abrams., 6th ed., vol. 2 (New York: Norton, 1993), 898.Google Scholar
  12. 32.
    Contrary to Manlove’s assumption, the author’s name is not a “pseudonymous near-pun” (The Fantasy Literature of England [London: Macmillan; New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999], 123), but the result of a misprint: “The name F. Anstey was actually the pseudonym of Thomas Anstey Guthrie (1856–1934) and came about as a result of a printer’s error. The poor man misread the signature ‘T Anstey,’ but with typical good humour the author passed off the mistake and instead decided to use the name on all his later work” (Peter Haining, ed., The Wizards of Odd: Comic Tales of Fantasy, 1996 [London: Orbit, 1997], 122).Google Scholar
  13. 33.
    F. Anstey, “The Adventure of the Snowing Globe,” 1906, in The Wizards of Odd: Comic Tales of Fantasy, ed. Peter Haining, 1996 (London: Orbit, 1997), 124.Google Scholar
  14. 37.
    See Roger Horrocks, Male Myths and Icons: Masculinity in Popular Culture (Houndmills: Macmillan, 1995), 149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 40.
    Kenneth Grahame, The Reluctant Dragon, 1898, illustr. E. H. Shepard, 1938 (London: Mammoth-Egmont, 2000), 9.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Lorretta M. Holloway and Jennifer A. Palmgren 2005

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  • Sandra Martina Schwab

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