Becoming a Gentleman

Adolescence, Chivalry, and Turn-of-the-Century Youth Movements

in Boyhood Studies
Kent Baxter California State University

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This article traces the intellectual and cultural history of the concept of chivalry, paying particular attention to its relationship with coming-of-age narratives, boyology, and theories of adolescent development. The concept of chivalry was central to the texts surrounding turn-of-the-twentieth-century youth movements, such as the Boy Scouts and the Knights of King Arthur. Chivalry, as it was constructed in these texts, became a way to contain cultural anxieties associated with a fear of modernity and, as a code of behavior, provided a path for youths to come of age, therefore containing concerns about the newly conceived and characteristically unstable developmental stage of adolescence.

Contributor Notes

Kent Baxter is Professor and Chair of the Department of English at California State University Northridge where he teaches children’s literature, young adult literature, and age studies. He is the author of The Modern Age: Turn-of-the-Century American Culture and the Invention of Adolescence (University of Alabama Press, 2008) and the editor of Critical Insights: Coming of Age (Salem Press, 2013). E-mail:

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