CEH30010 Heroes and Heroism

Academic Year 2023/2024

Heroes have always transcended the literary and cultural heroic forms in which they first appeared, notably epic. Attending to heroes (and anti-heroes) and later retellings of heroic stories, reveals the social, political and cultural values of their particular historical time and place – as well as historical continuities and discontinuities of identity, memory, nationhood, and much more.
This module studies the concepts of heroes, heroism and heroic values through the different but often intersecting fields of Classics, English and History. From epic poetry to the sports field, heroes have always compelled attention, evoked passion, and modelled power. Heroic narratives and values shape events, institutions, whole cultures, although not unproblematically (as the ‘Great Man’ model of history has shown). Perhaps more revealing are constructions of female heroes, particularly of those hitherto entangled in the heroic stories of men (Eve, for example, or Briseis). Exploring the intersectionality, influence and cultural forms of heroic identity, male and female, as well as their political uses, is a key aim of this module.
By examining a variety of genres and historical moments of constructing or remembering the hero, from Homeric times to the present day, we ask, why does the hero (still) matter? What are the politics of heroes and heroism? What needs are served by the notion of the heroic past, and who deploys them? How has the notion of the heroic shaped human experience and articulations of that experience across time, particularly at times of violence and conflict?

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

• Gain a good understanding of the cultural history of heroes and the heroic, from its roots in epic
• Learn to identify and analyse changing models, revisions and uses of heroes and the heroic
• Develop analytical and research skills for reading a diverse range of relevant primary materials historically and critically
• Engaged critically with interdisciplinary methods, values and materials
• Develop the skills to identify and explore key concepts and arguments by leading group discussion
• Learn to engage and analyse the contemporary moment in terms of this cultural history of the heroic

Indicative Module Content:

*Provisional* schedule:
1. Introduction
2. Lucan's 'Pharsalia' and epic anti-heroes
3. Valour and Heroism in Roman Society
4. Cú Chulainn and early Irish heroic masculinity
5. The Hurler as Hero
6. Presentation session
7. Milton's Paradise Lost (1)
8. Milton's Paradise Lost (2)
9. C20th War Poetry
10. Captive women from Homer's Iliad to Barker's Silence of the Girls
11. Contemporary heroes and anti-heroes
12. Review session

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Seminar (or Webinar)




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Seminars with lecturers from Classics, English and History
Group work and reflective learning
Student-led discussions

Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Presentation: Group presentation in the form of leading a class discussion for 15 minutes on a set topic. Powerpoint or notes and report of discussion for submission within a week of presentation. Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Essay: 3000-word essay on a title to be agreed in advance with the module convenor Week 12 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Peer review activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Class feedback and peer feedback on group presentations. Individual feedback on end-of-trimester essay.

Name Role
Dr Martin Brady Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Professor Danielle Clarke Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Christopher Farrell Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Professor Jane Grogan Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Assoc Professor Elva Johnston Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Annie Khabaza Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Bridget Martin Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Nathan Millin Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Mr Jason O'Toole Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Professor Michael Staunton Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Ms Suzanne Lynch Tutor
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - Autumn: All Weeks Fri 10:00 - 11:50