Antihero

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This article is about the character type. For the 1999 action film, see Anti-hero (film). For the punk band, see Anti-Heros. For the Marlon Roudette song, see Anti Hero (Brave New World).

The antihero[1] or antiheroine[2] is a leading character in a story who lacks traditional heroic qualities[1][3][4][5][6] such as idealism,[5] courage[5] and moral goodness.[6]

Whereas the classical hero is larger than life, antiheroes are typically inferior to the reader in intelligence, dynamism or social purpose,[7] giving rise to what Robbe-Grillet called “these heroes without naturalness as without identity”.[8]

The term is also sometimes used more broadly to cover Byronic heroes as well.[9]

History[edit]

Precursors[edit]

The antihero archetype can be traced back at least as far as Homer's Thersites.[10] It has also been identified in classical Greek drama, Roman satire, and Renaissance literature[10] such as Don Quixote[11] or the picaresque rogue.[12]

The antihero emerged as a foil to the traditional hero archetype, a process that Northrop Frye called the fictional "centre of gravity".[citation needed] This movement indicated a literary change in heroic ethos from feudal aristocrat to urban democrat, as was the shift from epic to ironic narratives.[7]

The term antihero is dated as early as 1714,[1] emerging in such works as Rameau's Nephew in the 18th century.[13]

Literary Romanticism in the 19th century helped popularise the antihero, such as in the form of the Gothic double.[citation needed] The antihero eventually became an established form of social criticism, a phenomenon often associated with the unnamed protagonist and antihero in Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground.[14]

Heyday[edit]

The antihero is prominent in early 20th century existentialist work such as Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis (1915),[15] Jean-Paul Sartre's La Nausée (1938)[citation needed] and Albert Camus's L'Étranger (1942).[citation needed] The protagonist is marked by an indecisive central character, drifting through his own life.[16]

A decade or so later, the antihero entered American literature, to dominate till the mid-Sixties as a lonely alienated figure, unable to communicate[17] - if typically more pro-active than his French counterpart - within the works of Jack Kerouac and Norman Mailer and many more.[18] The British equivalent appeared in the works of the so-called Angry young men of the fifties.[19]

The collective protests of Sixties counterculture saw the solitary antihero gradually eclipsed from fictional prominence,[20] though not without subsequent revivals in literary or cinematic form.[21]

Sporting antiheroes[edit]

In fiction, the sporting antihero is not a team player, challenges officialdom, and sets financial gain over club loyalty, yet still acquires a large fan following[22] by way of his/her actualisation of the rebel archetype.[23]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Antihero - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. 2012-08-31. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  2. ^ "Antiheroine - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. 2012-08-31. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  3. ^ "anti-hero: definition of anti-hero in Oxford dictionary (British & World English)". Oxforddictionaries.com. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  4. ^ Gioia, Dana (editor). "Definition of antihero | Collins American English Dictionary". Collinsdictionary.com. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  5. ^ a b c "American Heritage Dictionary Entry: antihero". Ahdictionary.com. 2013-01-09. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  6. ^ a b "anti-hero - definition of anti-hero by Macmillan Dictionary". Macmillandictionary.com. Retrieved 2013-10-04. 
  7. ^ a b Frye, Northrop (2002). Anatomy of Criticism. London: Penguin. p. 34. ISBN 9780141187099. 
  8. ^ Ermarth, Elizabeth Deeds (1992). Sequel to History: Postmodernism and the Crisis of Representational Time. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. p. 71. ISBN 9780691015170. 
  9. ^ "Literary Terms and Definitions B". Web.cn.edu. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  10. ^ a b Steiner, George (2013). Tolstoy Or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism. New York: Open Road. p. 197-198. ISBN 9781480411913. 
  11. ^ "Literary Terms and Definitions A". Web.cn.edu. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  12. ^ Halliwell, Martin (2007). American Culture in the 1950s (Transferred to Digital Print 2012 ed.). Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press. p. 60. ISBN 9780748618859. 
  13. ^ Steiner, George (2013). Tolstoy Or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism. New York: Open Road. pp. 199–200. ISBN 9781480411913. 
  14. ^ Steiner, George (2013). Tolstoy Or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism. New York: Open Road. pp. 201–207. ISBN 9781480411913. 
  15. ^ Barnhart, Joe E. (2005). Dostoevsky's Polyphonic Talent. Lanham: University Press of America. p. 151. ISBN 9780761830979. 
  16. ^ Brereton, Geoffery (1968). A Short History of French Literature. Penguin Books. p. 254-255. 
  17. ^ Hardt, Michael; Weeks, Kathi (2000). The Jameson Reader (Repr. ed.). Oxford, UK ; Malden, Mass.: Blackwell. p. 294-295. ISBN 9780631202707. 
  18. ^ Edelstein, Alan (1996). Everybody is Sitting on the Curb: How and why America's Heroes Disappeared. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. p. 18. ISBN 9780275953645. 
  19. ^ Ousby, Ian (1996). The Cambridge Paperback Guide to Literature in English. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 27. ISBN 9780521436274. 
  20. ^ Edelstein, Alan (1996). Everybody is Sitting on the Curb: How and why America's Heroes Disappeared. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. p. 1. ISBN 9780275953645. 
  21. ^ Hardt, Michael; Weeks, Kathi (2000). The Jameson Reader (Repr. ed.). Oxford, UK ; Malden, Mass.: Blackwell. p. 295. ISBN 9780631202707. 
  22. ^ Delaney, Tim; Madigan, Tim (2009). The Sociology of Sports: An Introduction. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co. pp. 72 & 284. ISBN 0786441690. 
  23. ^ Handelsman, Bud (2009). Families and how to survive them. London: Random House Ebooks. pp. 202–203. ISBN 1407011030. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Simmons, David (2008). The Anti-Hero in the American Novel: From Heller to Vonnegut. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-230-60323-8. 

External links[edit]