Studying Heroes

The Comp Lit Department here teaches a two-part course for first-year students. The first part is “Heroic Men”; the second, “Heroic Women.” I was trading emails the other day with the convenor of the course, who had been asking for suggestions for texts about heroes they might use for the course. I noted that possibility of studying a record album as text; the examples that came immediately to mind were Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Who’s Tommy and Quadrophenia.
 
So, the assignment (for those who choose to accept it) is to think of other albums that constitute teachable works, that depict a heroic man or woman. I know there are some hip-hop albums about the rapper as (anti-)hero; what are the best examples, would you say? And super extra bonus points if you can think of the “heroic woman” one. I’m a little dazed this weekend, but I haven’t come up with one yet.

5 comments / Add your comment below

  1. 2112 by Rush has it’s own (Randian) take on a hero.

    I would think most pop music would just be too short for any sort of sustained character development.

    There is also another Rush song about the subject of heroism in general called Nobody’s Hero. It’s on their Counterparts album. The theme of the song is remembering people who have died, but who were not noticeably heroic.

  2. It might be possible to do something with Laurie Anderson (O Superman). Bruce certainly covers the topic in many songs, common- working-man type. I would think that an interesting hero might emerge from some Etta James and Aretha Franklin songs. I would also nominate Patti Smith. Clearly, my suggestions are dated, but they are good dates!

  3. Tangential, but I’m teaching a Modern American Poetry course online this summer & I’m going to conclude with Dylan’s “Desolation Row,” as the last High Modernist poem before post-modernism transforms poetry. I suppose Dylan’s John Wesley Harding would be too surrealistic and not sufficiently narrative and sequential for your purposes.

    Not a record album, but for the Heroic Women course, I’d recommend Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower.

  4. He’s not exactly a hero, but certainly an American icon: Jesse James, subject of a fine if neglected folk/rock album, “The Legend of Jesse James,” featuring songs mostly written by Paul Kenerley and sung by Levon Helms, Emmylou Harris, Charlie Daniels, et. al.

  5. Well there’s always Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the aeroplane over the sea” album which is loosely (very much so !) about the last few years of Anne Frank’s life… a great concept album from the wonderful Jeff Mangum’s last band.

    Do I win a prize then ?

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