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Becoming a Gentleman

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

Kent Baxter

Keywords: adolescence; Boy Scouts; chivalry; G. Stanley Hall; Kenelm Henry Digby; Knights of King Arthur; medieval revivalism

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.

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