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Reimagining Heroism: A Conceptual Analysis Through Antigone and Medea

Martens, K. (2018) Reimagining Heroism: A Conceptual Analysis Through Antigone and Medea. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 58 (4). pp. 431-443.

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The definition of heroism is contested within the psychological literature, with some suggesting that a formal definition is unfeasible. Following these suggestions, to help clarify what is understood by “heroism,” I critique three potential understandings of heroism drawn from recent psychological work on heroism. In the first critique, I discuss the notion of heroes as displaying certain characters traits, or strengths. In the second, I argue that heroic action cannot be defined by its consequences. In the final critique, I explore whether heroism can be evaluated by the authority an actor supports or opposes. These critiques use Sophocles’ Antigone and Euripides’ Medea as their examples to show that these three understandings cannot express what is heroic about Antigone and not heroic about Medea. I suggest that, instead, the designation “hero” should be understood as an ethical evaluation of the person so designated.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Publisher: SAGE Publications
Copyright: © 2018 by SAGE Publications
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