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Introduction to the American Hero

Page history last edited by Abigail Heiniger 8 years, 4 months ago

Return to Course

 

Housekeeping:

  • Syllabus
  • Syllabus contract 

 

Agenda:


 

 

Welcome to American Literature after 1865: the American Hero

 

America was nearly shattered by years of Civil War, and it emerged looking for heroes to strengthen a quaking nation. This course looks at the way that heroes are used to create national narratives after 1865.  

 


Syllabus

 

Our heroic journey in this class begins with the syllabus.

 


What makes a hero?

 

 

 


 

 

Discussion Question: what do you know? 

  • What are some the American hero-myths with which you are already familiar?
  • What separates a mythic American hero from personal heroes?
    • My grandfather has always been one of my personal heroes, but he is not a shared mythic American hero. Why? 
  • Do you know any comic heroes?
    • Historical persona?  
      • Can people be mythic? 

 

 

 

 


 

Group Work:

Consider Vladimir Propp's "Thirty-One Functions of the Hero's Quest" and relate it to a quest narrative that you know.  

 

 

 

 


'pity this busy monster, manunkind'

pity this busy monster, manunkind,

not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victim (death and life safely beyond)

plays with the bigness of his littleness
--- electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange; lenses extend
unwish through curving wherewhen till unwish
returns on its unself.
                          A world of made
is not a world of born --- pity poor flesh

and trees, poor stars and stones, but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical

ultraomnipotence. We doctors know

a hopeless case if --- listen: there's a hell
of a good universe next door; let's go

E. E. Cummings

 

How does e.e.cummings define the hero's quest in this poem?  


Heroes for a Broken Nation

 

The cost of the Civil War is hard to fathom, despite the fact that we have lived through the longest war in American history. Go to "Maimed Men - Life and Limb: The Toll of the American Civil War."

 

Walt Whitman (very deliberately) create heroes for a broken nation through his poetry in Leaves of Grass.

 


Discussion Questions

 

  • How does Whitman valorize the common American man?
  • How does Whitman create heroes for America through his poetry?
    •  What literary devices does he use?
  • Are there any unresolved tensions about the American hero in Whiman’s poetry? 

Whitman and Propp

 

Group Work:

Consider Vladimir Propp's "Thirty-One Functions of the Hero's Quest" and relate it to one (or two) of Whitman's poems. How does Whitman's work conform to (or resist) Propp's description of the quest?   

 

 

 

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