The class will study the ambivalent ideology of hero worship and its complicated effect on Victorian fiction and poetry--and its still more complicated ramifications throughout the twentieth century. Among the questions we shall ask are: What is a nineteenth-century hero? Are heroes possible, or even desirable, in a democratic age? What happens to conventional gender definitions (and to men) when women define themselves as heroes?
Among the works we shall read are: Carlyle, Heroes and Hero-Worship; Thackeray, Vanity Fair; Dickens, David Copperfield; Tennyson, Idylls of the King; Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh; Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; George Eliot, Middlemarch; and Charlotte Brontë, Villette. We may also see one or two movies to trace heroic ideology through our own century.
There will be a midterm and probably a final examination. Each student will also write a 10-page paper on an aspect of heroism not covered explicitly in class.