From Heroes to Superheroes
What is a hero? What are the origins of the hero as a cultural and literary construct? Originating in myth, folktale and religious cult-worship, the hero archetype has had an astonishing history stretching from ancient times to the Marvel and DC superheroes of today. Endowed with superhuman or exceptional traits, the hero originated as a bridge between the divine and the human. His life’s journey combines a quest for self-discovery with the fulfillment of a higher cause, from the cosmic workings of destiny to the realization of social justice. We will begin the course by exploring contemporary superheroes such as Superman, Spiderman and Wolverine, and then go back in time to explore the origins of the hero archetype. Our approach will be typological and genre-based. We will be examining mythic heroes such as Herakles, tragic heroes such as Oedipus, epic heroes such as Achilles, and modern variants of the romantic hero from Byron to Nietzsche.