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Between Spectating and Venerating: Heroes and their Audiences


No hero or heroine exists without an audience; the hero is always a hero for someone and requires a wide audience – which will either (perhaps reluctantly) accept or venerate him. In instances of self-heroization, the figure of the hero or heroine satisfies certain political or cultural expectations, whereas in instances of social figuration he or she is portrayed to have satisfied such expectations. If these expectations are not present, then all attempts of heroic self-presentation, but also all efforts to heroize historical or fictional figures, are pointless.

Research on heroines, heroes and heroism until now has focused almost exclusively on the figures themselves, as well as – to a lesser extent – on the techniques and strategies of heroizing and heroic representation. In line with the research foci of the SFB 948 this conference titled “Between Spectating and Venerating: Heroes and their Audiences” aims to move away from this focus, which is long overdue, and examine the phenomenon of the heroic by concentrating on the audience and its relationship to the heroic figure. In which instances is it appropriate to speak of a community which venerates the hero? When and why is it permissible to work with other terms such as ‘admirers,’ ‘spectators,’ or ‘the public?’ And how can the relationship between different groups which have taken the same heroic figure as their role model be described, or, in general, the relationship between the heroizing audience and society?

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