POSITIONING HEROISM AND VILLAINY IN CONTEMPORARY CULTURE

full name / name of organization: 
American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA) Annual Conference 2013
contact email: 
vmessier@qcc.cuny.edu

POSITIONING HEROISM AND VILLAINY IN CONTEMPORARY CULTURE

Seminar Organizer(s):
Vartan Messier

“It’s the plight of all heroes today. In the air, they’re terrific. But when they come back to earth, they’re weak, poor, and helpless.” – Jean Renoir

At the beginning of modernity, the hero, paradigmatically in Don Quixote, becomes an antihero, led into action and astray by the literary models he imitates. The villain, meanwhile, at least since Paradise Lost, has been recast in another modality of the antihero: the nonconformist banished for acting freely. In the current moment of the digital age, do the archetypal heroes and villains from the beginning of modernity still hold true? Or has a new and perhaps more fraught relationship between the two emerged in recent decades of cultural history?

This seminar will explore these archetypes and their connotations in the cultural environment of the late-20th and early-21st centuries. How has the economic history of the New Hollywood, for example, with its emphasis on spectacle, influenced, even simplified, the nature of heroism or villainy for the popular imagination? Conversely, how have new schools of critical inquiry expanded our ideas on heroism and villainy? Have much celebrated leaderless political events with origins in social media (The Arab Spring, Occupy Movement) raised the specter of collective actions, rendering individualist heroism antiquated?

Topics may include:

Superheroes and Supervillains
Colonial and Postcolonial Heroism and Villainy
Hero Worship
Literary Heroes and Villains
Enemies of the State
Heroism and Mythology Revisited
Heroes and Villains in Popular Culture
Social Media and Political Action
Antiheroes, The American Novel, and Le Nouveau Roman

SEMINAR KEYWORDS:
Hero, Villain, Superhero, Heroism, Film, Hollywood, Mythology, Popular Culture, Social Media, Postcolonial, Cinema, Video Games

cfp categories: 
african-american
american
classical_studies
cultural_studies_and_historical_approaches
ethnicity_and_national_identity
film_and_television
gender_studies_and_sexuality
interdisciplinary
international_conferences
modernist studies
popular_culture
postcolonial
romantic
theory
twentieth_century_and_beyond