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Jennifer Wollock does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Modern society is in dispute over the value of chivalry.
Some see it as the mindset of elite warriors, glorifying violence and demeaning women. Others see it as necessary and desirable to protect groups under attack. As a historian of literature who studies chivalry, I stand with the latter group.
Rather than fostering misogynistic attitudes or overprotective behaviors that insult women, chivalry has been a liberating force from ancient times onward. The earliest chivalric incident I teach appears around B. In it, the wild man Enkiducivilized by a woman, confronts the sexually abusive king Gilgamesh. Jewish laws also influenced the chivalric customs of medieval leaders. Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the the Hebrew Bible, outlined laws of war around the 7th century B.
It inspired the international law that nations are governed by today. The Bible also features warrior women who emerge as chivalric figures.
The prophetess Deborah, for example, accompanies an army into battle. In her visionary song she praises Jaelthe lone woman who assassinates a predatory enemy general on the run. Early medieval knights were essentially hired thugs of low social status. Their adoption of chivalry as a professional code of honor allowed some of them to achieve respect as gentlemen.
European literature soon featured knights and kings as protectors of women. Such popular tales of chivalry pressured aristocrats to adopt the chivalric code — to some extent.
By the later 14th and midth centuries, English writers like Geoffrey Chaucer and Sir Thomas Malory depict the court of King Arthur as a bastion of justice for women, well beyond the norms of that day. Western chivalry rapidly became a liberating force for both men and women as knights intervened to protect civilians.
As in ancient times, chivalrous medieval women themselves led armies and defended castles. One of the most famous, the peasant girl Joan of Arcwas 18 when she led her countrymen against the English and saved French independence.
Their inspiration has fired up a long series of activists who carry chivalric ideals of social justice into the present day. Suffragists in the 19th and early 20th centuries — as well as Black Lives Matter protesters today — have identified with medieval knights destroying evil customs. Just as toxic masculinity and aggressive misogyny persist, so does the original chivalric ideal of the warrior defending human life and freedom against tyranny and its thugs.
The principled medieval knight — and principled men and women of whatever rank — valued self control.
They ed clerics of different faiths in opposing cruelty when law and bigotry gave victims little recourse. Inequities and prejudices have not disappeared since the days of King Arthur. I believe men and women of today need the chivalric values of mercy, justice and humility more than ever before.
Be Curious — Leeds, Leeds. Edition: Available editions United Kingdom. The chivalrous peasant teenager Joan of Arc is a hero of French independence. Dagli Orti via Getty Images. Ancient chivalry The earliest chivalric incident I teach appears around B.Looking to bring chivalry and Australia back
email: [email protected] - phone:(413) 587-8797 x 9263
If Arndt knows what chivalry is, she'll relinquish her Order of Australia