A Hero of Our Time: (Inter) national symbolic public figures and their cult in the age of (post) modernity

deadline for submissions: 
March 10, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Alexandra Volodina / The New Literary Observer
contact email: 

The 3rd Annual Conference within the framework of the joint project of the New Literary Observer journal and European University at St. Petersburg 

June 1 - 3, 2018


Project Partner: Southern Federal University (Rostov-on-Don)

The most important component of the European Modern Era was the emergence of a secular culture that upheld the right to individual autonomy from the dictates of the church and the state. The formation of civil society institutions was accompanied by the emergence of the phenomenon of secular public figures: "public opinion leaders", "masters of minds", and "national heroes". The term "hero of our time" in the Russian tradition was borrowed from the writer Mikhail Lermontov. These are sociocultural personality types that become a symbol for an entire generation or several generations. They define the ethical, aesthetic and behavioral norms and practices of an era. These new cultural heroes successfully compete with the traditional hierarchy of authorities, significantly undermining the symbolic capital of monarchs and saints over time. One can find military leaders (Napoleon, Admiral Nelson, Marshal Zhukov), revolutionaries (Robespierre, Garibaldi, Lenin, Che Guevara), writers (Voltaire, Byron, Pushkin), public figures (Chernyshevsky, Kerensky, Sakharov), arbiters of fashion (Madame Récamier, Beau Brummell, Oscar Wilde), scientists (Pasteur, Edison, Einstein), businessmen (Rupert Murdoch, Bill Gates) and even fictional characters (Werther, D'Artagnan, Harry Potter) among these iconic figures.

Populist politicians, dictators, athletes, film stars, models, and various media figures also become such "masters of minds" in the 20th and 21st centuries.

We would like to propose the following questions to be discussed at the conference:

- What social mechanisms (or ideological lacunae) give rise to such a personified institution of public opinion in the last three or four centuries?

- How is the cult figure formed and institutionalized in a particular era?

- What qualities turn these cultural heroes into a projection of collective hopes, fears, frustrations, and self-identification of their contemporaries?

- How quickly and in what way do the cultural heroes change in different periods?

- What are the similarities and differences between the "masters of minds" in different national contexts?

- What are the reasons of the recurrent re-actualization of the "heroes of old times"?

The conference will take place in Rostov-on-Don, the city well known for its brilliant scholars and energetic academic society as well as for its enjoyable cityscape and exceptional used books flea market.

Applications with the paper title and abstract (no shorter than 3,600 characters with spaces) as well as a short CV should be sent to sasha.volodina@gmail.com no later than March 10, 2018.

The Organizing Committee reserves the right to select the papers. Travel grants and accommodation in Rostov-on-Don will be available for the conference participants.