Respectus Philologicus eISSN 2335-2388
2021, no. 40 (45), pp. 61–73 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15388/RESPECTUS.2021.40.45.92
Hero vis-à-vis Author
The Institute of Albanology in Prishtina
Eqrem Cabej 10000, Prishtine, Kosovo
ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4647-2620
Research interests: literature, anthropology, and philosophy
Abstract. This article examines the complex relationship between the hero and the author. Through a reflexive phenomenological tone, it is argued that the hero depicts the emotional seed of the subject itself while the author is the beautiful mind that projects events and worlds by cultivating the intellectual seed. The call of adventure as a ringing bell for the hero and the author, the proclaimed Death of the Author, the almost confirmed Death of the Hero, and the horizon of the Teacher’s Death are discussed. In this setting, the fear from the authority of the hero and the author remains imminent. This article attempts to move beyond the horizon of death certificates in order to reach primary frequencies at the nexus between author and hero, derived from the very inner tones of the human psyche that come as a call to take us away to the beautiful world of Aha Erlebnis. The author and the hero – they do matter.
Keywords: Hero; author; adventure; fighter; homo ludens; morality; time.
Submitted 19 May 2021 / Accepted 14 July 2021
Įteikta 2021 05 19 / Priimta 2021 07 14
Copyright © 2021 Kujtim Rrahmani. Published by Vilnius University Press. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY-NC-ND 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium provided the original author and source are credited.
1. Fighter and Homo Ludens: toward order or adventure
Hero and author. Both protect and depict the order. Not exclusively, but also for Kant, hero means subject. This is why the figure matters tremendously. On his own, the author walks on the same avenue. Both of them have been subjected to dramatic interpretative revisions for centuries.
It sounds surprising and awe-inspiring that the heroic and the authorial are dedicated to the other. Certainly, the self-pleasure of the author is emphasized more than that of the hero, wherein the sense and sentiment of the scapegoat are framed as a kind of sacral pleasure.
In the 20th century, the French modernist poets – especially surrealists – created their circle around the opposition of adventure and order. However, nowadays, this binôme seems more complex than ever. This is less due to the conceptual quarrels between order and adventure and more because of their cohabitation within the same cognitive and poetic spaces. Both of these concepts depict a conceptual imaginary: there is no sense of adventure without an echoing illusion of the order; there is no hero or author without the horizon of adventure.
Order and adventure, as long as they conflict, interact and coexist more powerfully. Adventure shows up within the frame of wonder, surprise, the sublime, and extraordinary – the magic event. In Campbell’s words, the “call to adventure,” except the societal antennas, also affects a hero’s “zone of the unknown” (1993). Such a call means journey, and the hero journey is significant not only for societal and personal changes but, as Smith (1997, p. XVI) claims, also processes by which stories are created and interpreted.
The protection of order became a divine moral adventure of the mythical hero at the very beginning of the human endeavour alongside the adventure for new dimensions, events, and meanings. In addition, the hero appears as a protector of the adventure. Moral and physical bravery make the preconditions of the hero’s psyche for entering into his own adventure against another adventure.
In the Acadian Babylonian world of The Epic of Gilgamesh, written almost two millennia before Homer, the first (recorded) historical-fictional king and hero of humankind, Gilgamesh, was engaged in fighting against Enkidu to protect the order of the polis and civilization from his savagery. After finding peace and creating a friendship with him, he began the adventure of searching for immortality after his death. His entire life will oscillate between order and adventure. Paradoxically, Gilgamesh has preceded his author(s), who will recreate his complex real-and-fantastic tale by engaging the writing as a nexus of imitatio sacra, imitatio heroica, and imitatio of human “mimetic desire” (Girard, 2007, pp. 29–292).
If the hero is the first who came on stage, mostly by dying, the author will imitate him in being theorized by creating, singing, telling, and by visual depiction. Both of them challenge the order and affirm adventure.
In everyday life, the hero usually introduces the author. The hero fights and dies for us, whereas the author acts as a sort of homo ludens (Huizinga, 1949); the author plays and imagines for us, recognizing the basic rules of play. There are no written canons or laws, but some canonical sense originating from the forged cohabitation of nature and nurture. By themselves, they reproduce such canonical sensibilities as well. However, are they friends or rivals?
Most probable they are friends and rivals who bring before our eyes and minds a unique event, specifically, the wonderment of tremendous emotional and intellectual experiences. In addition, they seem to be friends in rivalry, behaving with juvenile arrogance on the one hand and with greed and jealousy on the other. The hero always takes the first step. The author follows, thus moving from action images to imaginative images. Following this sort of argumentation, the hero creates more authorship than the author creates heroism.
Hero and the author usually bring us what we do not have; what will shelter, fulfil and enrich our dwelling in the world. This is a classic definition. In today’s understanding, they have turned into what we can also be or are.
The hero mostly employs the following formula: first emotion versus the author, who insists on confirming that humanity stays on its feet thanks to his thinking. The hero assumes the throne of humankind as a moral and poetical position, whereas the author assumes the political throne and the crown of humanity as political and poetical.
2. The journey of the author/hero
Authors, originally or mythologically, begin as messengers of a world event. In the very beginning, God as a ‘primary author’ seems to have played the mediator between meaning and words, like a messenger of words. The early messenger (like the soldier-marathon man, sometimes called Marathonomak, from ancient Olympic games) advances to the level of a “herald,” a person who takes and gives words of what is and what will happen, words of the person who, to some degree, stays behind the event. Here we have the voice of the possible author embodied as identification with heroes or subjects; the voice of experiences, events, dramas, and emotions. Homer represents such “human invention.” His voice carries the divine energy to describe and make live the hero’s deeds. Unlike the hero as a great actor of the event who prioritizes emotions, the author introduces emotion alongside the ideas delivered by words. Hero and author became co/forgers of the aesthetic of relationship.
The heroic roots in authorship became historically decisive for great public figures as Alexander the Great, Martin Luther, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, and Mother Teresa. Like Socrates, they became an amalgam of the heroic and authorial, but they are often also characterized by a charismatic aura, this “gift of grace” (Gr.) embodied in their statures, deeds, and writings.
Some authors make fundamental cornerstones of the new perception of the heroic and authorial within these historical wanderings. One might say, for instance, that Dante Alighieri, Martin Luther, Montaigne, Shakespeare, and Cervantes will outline the prospect of humanity for the entire temps modernes. These characters and the narratives they represent symbolize the complex human adventure, much more than Columbus’s discovery in 1492.
From the thirteenth to the fourteenth century, Dante’s La commedia and his poetics of vernacular anticipated an unexperienced civil-religious reshaping of human habitation between polis and poiesis. He is a real author who becomes a real hero of his own work.
Almost the same model of an author characterized by errant epic hero features will appear two centuries later in Germany. This time, Martin Luther declares war with the Christian doctrine favouring a new hermeneutics of human life and understanding the sacred and the human. On the other hand, Montaigne, terrified of religious and civil wars, tended to find new paths toward soi-même, an orientation that will become a paradigm of the modern human map. The “freedom of volition” expressed by Dante is reframed in the space of Montaigne’s soi-même. Precisely at this time, Shakespeare opens the curtains to new scenes of the human psyche – introducing different human characters as heroes who will look after their properties within the new map of the polis and primary human emotions. Making the human issue more complex and rich, Cervantes made the next great “discovery.” He brought to light the different human faces and multiple heroic aspects within a single person. How can we be sure that we have found soi-même? Who is Don Quixote? Me, you, he, we, they? He is precisely what I am not, or precisely what I am or what I could be. He makes us, by remaining hidden in us! He becomes a hero who is our author as well, or the author who is our hero, accepted verbally or not. He remains the never-accepted hero and anti-hero called “I.”
Practically, these splendid five turned into great authors, built a new political and cultural milieu in the Western landscape by appropriating and canonizing the human values, heroic and non-heroic alike, that attach to the human being through time.
Across these heroic-authorial discoveries and endeavours, a sense of authority and self-trust serve as the hero’s emotional criteria and the author’s experience of gratitude. Both introduce the seeds of self-trust and trust as fundamental creeds. While the hero plants the sense of believing and admiration in us, the author cultivates playfulness and raises our ambition: “I could be an author as well.” While the hero has trust, love, and courage, an author has imagination, sensitivity, and ambition. Most of us have already chosen, even unconsciously, one of these.
Carlyle spoke beautifully when he said that there is no nobler feeling in the human chest than admiring someone higher than oneself (1908, p. 17). They remind us how, thinking that we are interpreting them, we go through life being interpreted.
3. Life, authority, and death
The paths of the hero and the author do not intersect as often as they may seem at first glance. However, the intersection horizon is evident and always expected. Life make sense associated with authority and death.
In the world of heroes and authors, “love is formative and humanizing when coupled with authority” (Molnar, 1995, p. 12). Accordingly, precisely hero and author, as chevaliers of beauty and generosity, depict the best personal path of authority between order and adventure.
Usually, the hero moves towards the author more than the author towards the hero, although the endless possibilities of their interplay are possible. Ancient Greece remains the great arena of heroes and authors, an agora where the passage of god heroes into human heroes and, finally, into authors can be considered.
Sometimes the transition from god to author is challenged by modern criticism and hermeneutics, although Homer and Plato would be reluctant to accept this dilemma. Before Plato, who had to construct the encrypted code of authorship, Homer forged the status of semi-divine authorship. Even his own status between “existent” and “non-existent” helps to understand the transition of the author from the divine to the human.
Wearing the coat of Odysseus or Homer means carrying the grace of authority. It is not by accident that the ancient Greeks regarded the heroes of Homer as a generation of superior beings who sought and deserved honour (Bowra, 1952, p. 1). Yearning for the heroic realm becomes an encrypted human horizon of desire and expectation to win authority.
Perhaps the masterpiece of the author oriented towards the hero is that of Socrates. In the same place, Plato depicts his yearning to be a great author but, unlike Socrates, not also a hero, at least not at the same time. Plato is “shameless” in using Socrates’s words and stories in attempting to build his authorship and his own possible heroic stature. Presumably, Plato borrowed Socrates’s face to show his affection for authority, and finally for the authorial as the beatification of the heroic. Plato encrypts his desire to be a hero by using Socrates’s face.
Throughout his writing, Plato identifies the seal of formal authorship with a kind of deistic authorship. The original authorship is god’s ownership; Plato remains only a herald of that will. Nonetheless, occasionally in his texts, the idea of authorship, though not obvious, can be sensed as an encrypted discourse between layers of the text, as in Socrates’ Defence, for instance:
So, I made myself a spokesman for the oracle, and asked myself whether I would rather be as I was – neither wise with their wisdom nor stupid with their stupidity – or possess both qualities as they did. I replied through myself to the oracle that it was best for me to be as I was….Whenever I succeed in disproving another person’s claim to wisdom in a given subject, the bystanders assume that I know everything about subject myself. But the truth of the matter, gentlemen, is pretty certainly this, that real wisdom is the property of God, and this oracle is his way of telling us that human wisdom has little or no value (Plato, 1989, p. 9).
Thus, Socrates insists on saving “himself” by declaring, “It was best for me to be as I was.” He continues to confirm his insistence on remaining himself while also commenting upon the other’s accusations. When Socrates insists before the court, “I am not going to alter my conduct, not even if I have to die a hundred deaths” (p. 16), by articulating his authorial and heroic voice and gesture, it also becomes Plato’s palimpsestic authorial voice, though not deed.
Socrates believed no one could judge him as far as he recognized God and that “God has specially appointed me to this city” (p. 16). It is precisely here where one meets the camouflaged “author-hero” by “god’s sanction.” Within the community, the example of being sent by the gods as a ‘chosen man’ (hero-author) is meanwhile appropriated by many religions.
Plato acknowledges the source of knowledge as a “property of God.” This way, the encrypted “myself” as a source of “auctoritas” exists intertwined between the layers of the text. Socrates’ story becomes Plato’s tale, but Plato’s story as well. Socratic defence becomes Plato’s possible defence. Between the hero and author, Plato certainly has been sheltered under the realm of the author. He was too clever to be a hero.
Certainly, from antiquity onwards, the map of authorial and heroic authority has significantly evolved. The main turn happened at the very end of the Middle Ages. However, one more decisive shift, especially in the status of the hero, came after the Enlightenment’s demystification process, when the hero, after being resystemized within the new secular world and polis, was sheltered largely in the figure of the national hero. Indeed, a new hero with the etiquette of the “grand home” was reframed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but that mainly became an aesthetic recall of the heroic roots of antiquity and mythos.
Remarkable modern revelations are striving (un)consciously for individuality without authority, for a dead authority as an author. Three human figures that celebrate fundamental human dimensions also experience the sharpness of the postmodern guillotine. These are the hero, author, and teacher. All three are legitimated by the very mark of authority as a seal of love, courage, admiration, intelligence, aura, and sublimation – in sharp contrast to the site of tyranny, which has been frequently ascribed to authority.
“Murdering” the author as a source of authority in the text was well illustrated in 1967 by Roland Barthes (published in French in 1968), who proclaimed the death of the author as an end of the supreme imagination and a horizon of expectation within an oeuvre, a “death” that has only been amplified by others. Just a year later, Foucault (1969) requalified this death mainly from the perspective of the functions in the text, releasing the author from “ownership” and “responsibility” as a world and authority. The reader, in turn, becomes a pastiche of the author, or less than that, the author’s surrogate.
Compared with the disappearance of God, the disappearance of the author and their hand became an obscured human horizon in the text. It is not by accident that just after the abolition of “author-ity,” Paris itself was rocked by students who initiated a “liberation” from authority by becoming political authors themselves.
In 1966, the phrase “crisis of heroes” was used to express worry about the loss of “great authors” and auctoritas (Gadamer, 1985). However, the syntagm turned into the paradigm, and decades later was articulated quite differently. For instance, motivated by a constructivist perspective, Lücke (2013) attempted to address some historical “heroic matters” of humankind beyond the human quests for having wisdom and being a hero (Lode, 2018).
It is precisely the desire for authorship that generates aggression towards another author. The art of refilling the gap with the author’s imagination and authorship is evidence that the author is housed in the instinctive world of being. To fight an author, a name value usually means yearning to be like the author or even to take their place. In short, the fight against the author is normally a fight to “become” one.
The adventure of putting the author on the edge of existence by being rescued from the hero is the idea behind Bakhtin’s (1990) seminal essay Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activity, written in the 1920s, more than half-century before Barthes. Bakhtin is careful not to push the authorial dilemma towards the “horizon of death,” giving voice to a kind of cohabitation between the heroic and authorial. He cited as evidence the turbulence of authorship in the novels of Dostoyevsky. This kind of trouble is different from the “disappearance” or “non-existence” of the author in oral narrative and epics. As for those who try to identify the author with the hero, that is another story. Perhaps Barthes leads partially down that path.
After proclaiming “the death of the hero” from the beginning of the twentieth century, the “death of the teacher” began to be talked about as well. It does not matter that it would be good to take into account that “a Master invades, he breaks open, he can lay waste in order to cleanse and to rebuild” (Steiner, 2003, p. 18).
The great triangle of deaths – author, hero, teacher – detoxified the scent of heroes and authors. Fear of authority inclines one to ignore its emotional and intellectual sides; indeed, chasing author, hero, and teacher means participating in a witch hunt.
This thirst for the eradication of authority, beginning c. 1990, has brought the already thin neck of the hero under the guillotine. Even when heroes can still be emotionally felt, they became needless and untrustworthy. Nevertheless, “unpacking and deconstructing” them (Hourihan, 1997) in order to show their “true” face became an imperative. This initiative did have a significant impact on creating a post-heroic Stimmung, epitomized lately as die postheroische Gesellschaft (Münkler, 2006; 2007), in which an effort was made to turn the trust in the hero into trust in the project.
Consequently, any hero is needless because all it can do is bring trouble to our peaceful life. Even as fiction or as a sport, such a hero is harmful. How can someone be a hero and someone else not? There are neither heroes nor authors in a utopian world: everything is where it is supposed to be; everyone is everything. The concept of “sacrifice” has been reshaped into the concept of “victim,” which provides the necessary emotional and intellectual space for eternal violence. Such a space is required to rub out the eternal known and unknown enemy, as in Dino Buzzati’s novel The Tartar Steppe.
However, a kind of hero is surviving. The “new” hero could speak like this: “Today I am the hero; tomorrow it’s your turn. Let us be heroes, all of us equally. Even by rotation! I am hero today; you are tomorrow – no one could complain about this.” Currently, the term hero is housed in the metaphorical discourse of celebrities in the arts, fiction, cinema, music, sport, business, video games, and comic books. Perhaps the most powerful, resilient sense of heroic authority lies in the sports hero and in heroic figures of cinema and music. The hero is still alive. As Joseph Campbell said in 1949, “It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse” (1993, p. 391).
As subjects, author and hero are licenced to interpret a society that is an abstraction. Even the executioners of the hero/author are heroes/authors themselves: whoever aims to kill a hero or author is (un)consciously on the path of becoming one. Thus, the hero does not ask permission to emerge.
4. Morality and time
In poetics and aesthetics, in terms of priority of appearance, the author introduces the hero. The hero is a symbiosis of human values, both poiesis and polis.
While the hero is imperatively attached to ‘scapegoat’ deeds, an author is dedicated to the creation of oeuvres. Accordingly, heroism is more spontaneous, while authorship is intentional. Perhaps the heroic act yearns to generate an authorial memory, whereas authors dream for a heroic peak in their oeuvre’s acceptance. Fiction and artistry are always open to transitions between heroes and authors, between ethics and aesthetics.
The moral question of good and evil will percolate through the whole cosmology of the literary canon of authors and heroes. The knife-edge between heroism and villainy is expressed plainly in Homer’s Iliad, Cervantes’s Don Quixote, Shakespeare’s plays, Dostoyevsky’s and Kafka’s novels, in Beckett’s dramas. The greatness of these authors is, in part, their ability to raise quintessential questions about who should be taken for a hero. Who is, or could be, the hero? Who is our representative? How do we, or could we, identify with the hero?
Heroes usually “do the right thing”, even though we (re)build this concept a posteriori after experiencing their deeds. The hero cannot escape the link between the fate of myth and the modern status of fiction. Increasingly, however, the hero occupies figurative, fictional connotations in popular culture, a television channel or Twitter feed where “my hero” or “hero of the day” is celebrated. The hero has become a figure hidden in the language.
Although heroes were widely recognized in many rich configurations, they tended to be typecast as epic warriors. Similarly, although familiar to the Greeks ever since Homer, authors obtained their name and reputation only with the rise of the Roman Empire, when they became marked as auctor/itas. The greater the name of the author, the greater the space provided to fiction and the fictional hero. Thus the fictional transfer came to increase the author’s authority. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages were not as generous to authors, although, in principle, the arts remained the main source of intellectual activity. In the tradition eclipsed after Vergilius, it was not by accident that Dante was catapulted to fame, pursuing in this way a new path of heroic and authorial imagination.
Moreover, that in itself was evidence of trans-epical recycling and self-examination. If “without Homer, there would have been no Aeneid” (Curtius, 1990, p. 18), one might freely summarize: without Gilgamesh, no Homer; without Homer, no Vergilius; without Vergilius, no Dante, Milton, Joyce, and so on. In a word, these authors generate heroes, and heroes generate authors. On the other hand, almost two millennia were required for Homer’s heroes to arrange the cultural shift of the Babylonian tradition and poetics, headed by Gilgamesh as its hero archetype. It took almost two more millennia to renew the old Hellenic poetics in the late Middle Ages of Western Europe, with Dante and later Shakespeare. Their existence and morality are related to their trans-time philosophy, as “primitive poetics” nurture each other. The hesitations, dilemmas, desires, and strong emotions encountered in Gilgamesh will reappear in new guises in Shakespeare. If an author, like Auerbach, “does not chronicle the continuity of the unchangeable Western humanist tradition but rather the relentless humanization of that tradition from the ancients” (D’haen, 2012, p. 40), this is a sublime embodiment of the transcending power of heroes, gods, and authors into “man”; heroes and authors wear the clothes of “man” and humanitas. In addition, “the medieval practice of invoking the auctores survived for centuries after Dante” (Curtius, 1990, p. 52). Dante and especially Shakespeare and Cervantes, by forging their heroes established themselves as great and timeless authors. They affirmed perfectly that poetic time transformed into narrative time.
With Shakespeare’s heroes, everyday life and fiction achieved a new rhythm because they provoked an unprecedented dialogue with other heroes and characters. In Shakespeare, a character becomes a hero. This is an enriching outcome for the concept of the hero in relation to tradition. The space of the hero attempted to establish a larger arch – from the most emotive and intimate zones into the most public ones. The other extraordinary literary view at the time – Molière’s comic plays – completed the picture of the literary world.
The two-dimensional Cervantesian hero, Don Quijote/Sancho Panzo, exerted a huge influence on heroes and authors of modern times. Cervantes evoked heroic experiences on two parallel paths, which open onto thousands of other paths. His two-dimensionality traced human character from the extreme limits of order to the other extreme of adventure: a fundamental arc of the human psyche.
When Romantic authors came on the scene, they elevated the ego of the knight’s “chevaliaresque” dignity to the level of the epic hero, overlaying it onto the archaic meaning of warrior. In short, authors have portrayed the heroic as the most desirable individual horizon from early modern days onward. In Abrams’s (1953) terms, one might say that authors became devoted to the reversible movement of turning the lamp into the mirror and the mirror into the lamp – a prospect that finally broke the frontiers of Romanticism.
The authority of both hero and author has gradually eroded in favour of aesthetics as a less dangerous space for the proper political logos of today’s society. A hero and an author are always out-of-order mythos that causes trouble for the proper functioning of political doctrines. Nevertheless, authority (except anthropologically and politically), had to have artistic experiences. Therefore, authors, like heroes before, attempted to design their own status. One of these attempts was the nouveau roman c. 1950–1960, which became a sort of post-novel, a predecessor of the post-Weltanschauungen that appeared later as ‘our’ mark.
From a distance, one might perceive that the most significant shift in authorship was in the field of cinematographic imagination, where the old etiquette of the author was updated within the new coupling of screenwriter and director, a kind of co-authorship that had a long tradition in theatre. Thus, the supposed shift of author-regisseur remains within the contours of the hero and events once presented on stage. The building of heroes from authors in contemporary fiction and film is an intriguing development in the relationship between author and hero. Succinctly, the author is being reanimated.
Even the simplest hero of everyday life echoes our primary archetypes. It is well known that heroes dwell mainly in action, deeds, and divine-human dramas, but they experience non-active situations. “They held that the life of action is superior to the pursuit of profit or the gratification of the senses” (Bowra, 1952, p. 1). However, heroes know that the other face of their life is sensually inclined. Hence, they generate emotions and events derived from the interplay between action and the senses.
In search of the phenomenology of the heroic – with the authorial as a heroic shadow – I would locate the primary heroic spaces within a triangulated scheme of home (Householder), road (Wanderer), and combat zone (Soldier). The Householder fights for the welfare of personal and public space, trying to keep it safe. The Wanderer looks after individual space, finding the wisdom of the nexus of dream, world, and home. The Soldier is committed to protecting land, home, family, and an idea by using the sword whenever needed. The Soldier aims to internalize the sense of public space into personal space.
All three hide authorial intention in the background, but the Soldier is less so than the others. A householder is more attached to ethics (order, service, conservation, emotions, tradition) and Wanderer to poetics (adventure, dream, seeking, passions), whereas a Soldier is between ethics and politics (ethical services, determination, bravery). The sacred/profane relationships are always displayed within these domains and in the heroes’ psyches.
One must say that this typology of the hero is based on an ultimate oxymoron that, on the one hand, reaffirms the figure of the hero as a Soldier or even Soldier-Householder who protects home and tradition, and, on the other hand, affirms the hero as engaged in opening new paths for humanity. In life as in fiction, it seems that no Householder who does not dream for a while of becoming Soldier and Wanderer, no Soldier who does not dream of becoming a Householder, and, to a lesser degree, no Wanderer who does not dream of becoming Householder and to some extent Soldier.
Whenever we realize that “we are in the domain of Aha Erlebnis” (Rizo-Patron, 2017, p. 22) as a crux of human beings, we recall our debt to heroes and authors. Born in feelings, the hero is a legitimate child of wonder. No one asks, “How can you be a hero?” They simply awe us and we find them acceptable, or we learn to accept them without (many) questions.
It is not the same situation when we run into authors. We have to encounter them many times and fall in love with them in order to accept them as “ours.” However, a strange liaison with authors also determines our relationship with them.
A child of wonder, the hero envelops us instantly with strangeness. Their wonder seems to take on a kind of magic, sometimes shamanistic elements, like a kind of transformed feature from earlier poetic forms: “Shamanistic poetry is more primitive than heroic and tends to precede it historically. Heroic poetry seems to be a development of a narrative from a magical to a more anthropocentric outlook” (Bowra, 1952, p. 8). The epic hero has no choice but to accept this new narrative canon and convert its inner shamanistic magic into an internal-and-external characteristic of the new epic hero. Hero and author are wondering creatures that transmit the sense of wonderment as a primary emotion, making us fall in love with them.
Also, the hero is coined with a sense of time. Any fictional or non-fictional author or hero counts on this paradigm, keeping in mind that the relationship to time is grounded on effect and especially on desire (Allen, 2018). Yet, this sense of time and space-time (Bachelard, 2005) is imaginatively internalized by the author. In sum, there are two perspectives with respect to the sense of time: the cumulative sense, which is typical for the author, and the right-timing sense, typical for the hero. Whereas the author is identified with the cumulative sense of time, epitomized in Chronos – a chronological, linear code that includes the arch of memory and intentions – the hero yearns for Kairos as a sense of chosen time, closer to the experiences of the “right timing” of change through the invocation of the eternal. Achilles lives for the momentum of revenge as Kairos time that would be transmitted into chronological/historical time through the epic songs, whereas Homer lives in Chronos time, transcending incrementally through epochs of Kairos time. Heroes’ Kairos time affirms deeds’ emotions as time markers of their existence. The authors’ time confirms its attachment to an idea turned into “deed,” which calls for emotions of the heroic time. Every oeuvre pretends to turn Chronos time into Kairos time. This is the transcending moment when the author turns into a hero.
Consequently, the hero moves from Kairos towards Chronos, whereas the author walks from Chronos towards Kairos. The time vector of Achilles moves towards Homer and Homer’s vector towards Achilles. In this way, the transcended meaning of time becomes an inner thirst for both of them. Initially, the hero transcends momentum-time into space, whereas the author insists on fulfilling historical time-space with a substance of Kairos time on the horizon. The aesthetics of Kairos, chosen time, vs Chronos, cumulative time, favours the idiosyncrasy of wonder derived from the heroic and the authorial realm. The hero admires the sealed story, unlike the author, who prefers a never-ending, open-ended one. The brutal separation of Chronos and Kairos in our neo-rational time is removing the playfulness that heroes and authors can offer.
But yes: the marvellous duo, hero and author, still matter because they bring a meaningful tale to our life. Beyond the psychological horizon of the hero and author, the human being is dead. Hero and author continue to be “something” that often means “everything.”
Great heroes and authors like those mentioned above interpret us more fully than we can interpret them. Moreover, they shape us. They teach us the art of the sublime, the culture of admiring what we are not. Heroes can survive sheltered as players-homo ludens, as video-game avatars, and as accidental champions in times of earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters. Always accompanying this hero is the author. It is a pity that it has gone almost unnoticed that the hero and author establish the emotional horizon of the human being. This is why they are able to survive. The hero remains scattered in our emotional shelters.
The fairy tale of heroes and authors goes further. There are still fairy tales, and their heroes bring joy to many people, not only children. At last, it is the author who does not allow the hero to die. For both of them, the main motivation remains nothing but to bring fresh meaning and life beautification.
The personality of the hero goes beyond schemas and archetypes, although some moral and poetic archetypes are created. This is true, especially after Shakespearian characters turned into heroes or the discovery of heroes in great characters. Consequently, heroes, today become true as extraordinary and uncommon characters, even without the traditional features of villains or epic warriors.
The encounter between hero and villain usually creates morality. Heroes, alongside their mission to protect morality, actually “create” morality themselves. The modern individualistic perspective has only amplified this feature. Still, in general, all Indo-European heroes are in the wake of Gilgamesh. In the West, a warrior becomes a brave hero; in the East, the wise hero is envisaged as a hermit.
In modern times, heroes and authors are both removed in favour of fictional, entertainment, and sports worlds. The modern distance between fiction and reality has negatively influenced the further distance between real heroes/authors and fictional ones.
Hero and author take care of us more than we of them. What remains is to enjoy them and also to enjoy following their traces.
The essay is based on the research work sponsored by the European Commission and CSSA, conducted by the author in between 2016–2019 in Free University of Berlin (Dahlem Humanities Center), in University of Freiburg (Sonderforschungsbereich 498: Helden, Heroisierungen, Heroismen) in Germany, and Institute of Albanian Studies in Pristina, Kosovo. My warm regards and gratitude to all my colleagues and friends for their suggestions and meaningful discussions.
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