Heroes: Conceptions, Constructions and Representations (HIH3626)

StaffDr Hester Schadee - Convenor
Dr Miguel Hernandez - Lecturer
Professor Sarah Hamilton - Lecturer
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module is designed to enhance students’ understanding of recurring themes in the history of heroism over a time scale extending from the Middle Ages to the present. It will be taught by two or three different tutors, and the exact chronological and thematic focus will depend on which tutors are teaching the module in any given year. By close specialist evaluation of key topics students will trace key developments in the subject, and think about these comparatively across time and space. In order to do so, they will need to consider heroic cults in specific political, social, cultural and religious contexts. In order to achieve this, the module will introduce students to a wide variety of different historical source materials, ranging from biographies and epic poetry to painting, monuments and film. By using a combination of tutor-led seminars and lectures, student-led seminars and independent study, the module will enable students to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of taking a comparative approach to the study of heroism. In this way students will learn to draw thematic comparisons between material from different sources, show awareness of contrasting approaches to research, and demonstrate an enhanced understanding of some of the philosophical questions arising from research into large historical themes. They will also learn to present some of these complex issues to the rest of the class by leading a seminar in the second half of the course.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Analyse developments in the history of heroism and compare its relationship to other phenomena such as gender and nationalism across a variety of historical time-periods and contexts.
  • 2. Compare and explain key historiographical developments in the history of heroism across different societies and periods, and relate them to an overall conception of the subject.
  • 3. Evaluate carefully and critically the approaches that historians and scholars working in other disciplines have taken to this subject
  • 4. Define suitable research topics for independent study/student-led seminars in the history of heroism, evaluating different and complex types of historical source and historiography.
  • 5. Demonstrate the possibilities and limitations of comparative methodological approaches in historical research more generally.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 6. Analyse the key developments in complex and unfamiliar political, social, cultural or intellectual environments.
  • 7. Identify and deploy correct terminology in a comprehensible manner; use primary sources in a professional manner; present work in the format expected of historians, including footnoting and bibliographical references.
  • 8. Assess critically different approaches to history in a contested area.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. Work both in a team and independently.
  • 10. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 11. Understand as a team how to lead a group discussion of a historical topic.

Syllabus plan

Lecture Programme:

Possible lectures include:  Ancient Heroes; Sainted Heroes; Intellectual Heroes; Heroes of Empire and Discovery; Heroes and Gender; Memorialising Heroes; Heroes and popular culture; and Contested Heroes.

One lecture slot in the middle of the term will be used as a workshop to prepare students for the student-led seminar.

Seminar Programme:

The seminar programme will be determined by the tutors teaching the course each year but potential topics include: Pre-Modern Heroes and Their Legacies, Medieval Heroes, Heroes of Nation Building, Heroes in ‘Totalitarian’ Regimes, and Heroes and Material Culture.

Seminars for Semester Two will be decided upon by the students on the module and selected from a broad range of topics, such as ‘Heroes of Minority Groups, ‘Heroes and Class’, ’Heroes for Children’, ‘Heroic Defeat and Failure’ and ‘Damaged Heroes’.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities1111x 1 hour lectures to run on alternate weeks over both terms, as described in syllabus plan above.
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities126 x 2 hour tutor led seminars to run in weeks 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 21, as described in syllabus plan above.
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities105 x 2 hour seminars in weeks 11, 13, 15, 17, and 19. Each led by a group of 2 or 3 students. Topics should be chosen from a menu of subjects agreed in advance by tutors. While tutors give guidance and a basic reading list, students are responsible for designing seminar activities and identifying further reading materials.
Guided independent study267Students prepare for seminars, essay, final report and exam through reading and research; they also work in groups to lead seminars based on projects that have been developed.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan500 words1-8, 10Verbal and written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay303000 words1-8, 10Verbal and written
Student-led seminarStudent-led seminar [comprising: leading a student led seminar (36%) and attending all student-led seminars (4%)]402 hours 1-11Verbal and written
Take-away exam303000 words1-8, 10Verbal and written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-8, 10Referral/deferral period
Student-led seminar and participation1500 words (written by student individually) describing and reflecting on the proposed seminar activities and materials equating to one person’s contribution (c. 45 minutes), plus proposed handout or powerpoint from seminar (not more than 2 sides of A4) and seminar reading list (not more than 1 side of A4)1-11Referral/deferral period
Take-away examTake-away exam1-8, 10Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of a 3,000 word essay and 3,000 word take-away exam, as in the original assessment, but replaces leading and participating in student-led seminars with a written seminar plan and reading list that corresponds to one student’s contribution to such a seminar. The plan should outline how the seminar is to be structured and organised as well as detailing the material to be used. This will enable a reader to gain a sense of what the student intended to do in the seminar, the rationale for this activity, and when this activity / discussion would take place.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Buckley, M.  Mobilizing Soviet Peasants: Heroines and Heroes of Stalin's Field (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2006).
  • Carlyle, T. On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History (London: Oxford University Press, 1841).
  • Cubbitt, G & A.J. Warren (eds), Heroic Reputations and Exemplary Lives (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000).
  • Dawson, G. Soldier Heroes: British Adventure, Empire and the Imagining of Masculinities (London: Routledge, 1994).
  • Hackett, H. Virgin Mother, Maiden Queen (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1995).
  • Hope, E. Grace Darling: the heroine of the Farne Islands (London: Walter Scott, 1887)
  • Hughes-Hallett, L. Heroes (London: Harper Collins, 2006)
  • Jordan, G. and Rogers N., ‘Admirals as Heroes: patriotism and liberty in Hanoverian England’ Journal of British Studies 28 (1989), 201-24.
  • MacKenzie J., ‘Heroic Myths of Empire’ in J. MacKenzie (ed.), Popular Imperialism and the Military 1850-1950 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992).
  • Pollard, A.J. Imagining Robin Hood (London: Routledge, 2004).
  • Potts, A. ‘Beautiful Bodies and Dying Heroes: Images of Ideal Manhood in the French Revolution’, History Workshop Journal 30:1 (1990), pp. 1-21.
  • Price, J, Postman’s Park: G.F. Watts’s Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice (Compton: Watts Gallery, 2008).
  • Riffenburgh, B. The myth of the explorer (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994).
  • Warner, M. Joan of Arc: the image of female heroism (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1981).
  • Waugh, R. & Weldon, J. (eds) The hero recovered : essays on medieval heroism in honor of George Clark(Kalamazoo, MI: Western Michigan University Press, 2011).

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Key words search

Heroes, Heroism, Cults, Reputation, Identity