01:098:255 (4 credits)
Core: CCO, AHp
Professor Wendy Swartz, Asian Languages and Cultures
What makes ordinary people do extraordinary things?
What defines a hero or heroine? Are heroes and heroines defined differently? What role do cultural and historical contexts play in these definitions? How do fictional heroes and heroines compare with historical ones? What turns rebels, agitators, iconoclasts, or even fools into heroes?
This course offers a comparative examination of conceptions of heroism across cultures, time, and gender. Since the beginning of written records, heroic acts and gestures have had enduring appeal. Shrines and monuments, epics and songs, paintings and films have been dedicated to extolling heroic figures—real, idealized, or legendary. What can a culture’s heroes or heroines tell us about its values, expectations, and ideals? What motivates someone to go beyond the individual and ordinary to sacrifice for a community, country, or humanity? We will explore the cultural conditioning, ethical reasoning, and moral compass behind some of the greatest heroes and heroines in history and literature from Greek epic heroes to Chinese assassin-retainers, women warriors to samurais, Shakespearean tragic heroes to contestants in the real life Game of Thrones in medieval Europe, civil rights leaders to women’s rights crusaders, and comic "supers" to modern day heroes.
Students from all schools and disciplines are encouraged to enroll in this course. The course carries credit toward the major and minor in Asian languages and cultures. Heroism can be used to meet the Core Curriculum goals in Contemporary Challenges: Our Common Future (CCO) and Arts and Humanities [AHp].