Wednesday, August 1, 2007

On Heroes

Via Unlocked Wordhoard, Old English in NY has a meditation on modern heroism (inspired by the recent spate of films on Beowulf). There are some interesting things here, including the discussion that continues in the comments and a link to the artist Martin Firrell's new project that considers some of these same things (sans Beowulf). I think you could also expand the discussion to include other models of medieval or modern "heroes" -- like Charlemagne or Tony Soprano, among others -- and I think that Ms. Hurley's final musings about the role that medievalists (not just Anglo-Saxonists) have to play in this discussion is spot on.

Anyway, I'm interested to see where all this goes. In particular, I wonder if heroism is really wedded to, and if so if it can really be divorced, from violence. I mean, firefighters are heroes in our society, right? So too are people that jump into rivers to save others who are drowning. Are they less heroes than soldiers or (in fiction) characters like John McClane? And what of the new NBC show, Heroes (or comic books more generally)? There's certainly violence in this latter instance but it's reluctant and certainly not the focus of the narrative. Their heroism stems from their abilities and their willingness to use them to help others, not necessarily in their conflict with the forces of evil. This leaves me wondering exactly how wedded to violence heroism really is in this society, or in any other.

No comments: