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The Nature of Literary Heroism

Andrew Bernstein

Presented at: OCON 2011

Date: Jul 02, 2011

Literary criticism is a vague field that generally leaves its key terms undefined. What, for example, does it mean to be a story’s “hero?” What criteria must be met? What is the nature of heroism? Based on answers to such questions, who are the greatest heroes of world literature?

Is John Galt—who effectuates world-changing events from behind the scenes, invisible for most of the story to both narrator and readers—so unique as to be sui generis? Is anyone remotely comparable to him? Of world literature’s less revolutionary heroes, does Howard Roark overcome formidable opposition to achieve the most life-promoting goals? How do Ayn Rand’s heroes compare/contrast to Odysseus, to Cyrano, to Shane, to Dr. Stockmann? Is Dagny Taggart the greatest heroine of world literature? Finally, who is the greatest hero of literature—and why?


Parts: 3

Handout: none