This book traces a history of the Western notion of heroism that has been unwritten until now. It shows to what extent the idea of a hero, as it had been shaped in ancient and medieval heroic epic, has remained effective in the present. The contributions of this book first introduce the epic conception of a hero characterized by human excess and social destructiveness (›Iliad‹, ›Beowulf‹, ›Nibelungenlied‹, ›Edda‹ and Sagas, ›Chanson de Roland‹, ›Cid‹).
In addition, they show how already in pre-modern times this conception of the hero was worked on by adapting it to new cultural conditions, transferring it into other discourses, or reconceptualizing it in terms of prevailing social norms (›Gilgamesh‹, ›Aeneid‹, Judith narratives, courtly novel). Lastly, they trace how the notion of the exorbitant hero lives on in modern literature as well as in comics, film, and computer games. The aim of this literary history is to provide a new conceptual basis for the current discussion about the social relevance of heroism today.
Christoph Petersen, born 1968, teaches German Language and Literature of the Middle Ages at Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich. He publishes on heroic epic, historiography, and piety culture of the Middle Ages, as well as on Renaissance humanism and the reception of the Middle Ages in the present.
Markus May, born 1965, teaches modern German Literature at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich. His main research interests include fantsay as a cultural phenomenon and literary and cultural theory.