Date of Award


Thesis Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Liberal Studies


Dr. Thomas Cook

Second Advisor

Dr. Gail Sinclair


The code of chivalry has a rich literary history. From the violence and misogyny of pre-chivalric ancient Greece and Rome, the chivalric code was constructed in a deliberate effort to curb and improve the most violent aspects of male behavior. The chivalric male ideal was built upon the tripartite foundation of the ancient archaic virtues, the gallantry of Germanic barbarians, and the Christian beatitudes. Chivalry sought a male ideal which brought raw strength and power under the concept of legitimate authority. By casting the literary male ideal – the knight – into the role of the defender of the weak and defenseless, chivalric literature served as an exemplar for actual male behavior. This system of control, which came to be known as the chivalric code, had a turbulent history in the course of Western civilization with certain eras and cultures becoming enthusiastic proponents and others becoming skeptical or even hostile to the ideals of chivalry. From the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and up to Modernity, the literature of these epochs provide a fascinating window into society’s acceptance or rejection of chivalric ideals.