In conjunction with the 250th anniversary of the birth of Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale and the premiere of a new play celebrating the life of the pioneering civil rights advocate Prudence Crandall, the University of Connecticut will host a conference at the Storrs campus on February 24 and 25, 2006 to review the historic roles of “heroes” and “heroines” in American society and their prospective place in the culture of the 21st century and beyond. While some scholars argue that heroic figures are necessary to inspire emulation and social virtues, others argue that heroic figures have been used to validate social, political, and gendered domination.
We invite papers from a broad group of contributors including university scholars, museum professionals, educators and independent scholars and we especially encourage proposals that consider broad and comparative ways of understanding across traditional boundaries. We encourage interdisciplinary approaches, particularly those which include public history and interpretation of heroism outside the academy. Possible presentations could include, but are not limited to, such questions as:
- How has the role of the hero/heroine changed at various periods in American society? How have some individuals come to be recognized and subsequently remembered as “heroic?”
- What constitutes the “anti-hero” in historical memory, and how do some characters come to be recognized and remembered as villains?
- What are the gendered dimensions of the heroic? How does gender effect the creation, demeanor, and/or achievements of a “heroine”?
- What is the relationship between heroism and nationalism, and heroism and human rights? Are these separate categories and, if so, has their relative importance varied over time?
- What are the political dimensions of hero-building? How do public historians incorporate heroic characters into the larger stories of historic occurrence?
- What role do “heroes” play in unifying cultures and in reifying cultural standards and ideals?
Papers analyzing aspects of the conception of heroism from any time period of American history or discussing the lives of individuals and how their actions came to be recognized as heroic are welcome. Panels and individual papers are solicited on every aspect of heroism, both in academic and popular portrayals.
Prospective participants should submit a one page description of each proposed panel and 250 – 500 word description of each paper by October 15, 2005. Please send three copies of your proposal and a one-page curriculum vitae, or email your materials as Microsoft Word documents with “Heroism, Nationalism, and Human Rights” in the subject line, to the following:
Walter W. Woodward
1800 Asylum Avenue, Room 214
West Hartford, CT 06117-2697
This conference is a collaborative production of the Antiquarian and Landmarks Society, the Office of the State Historian, the Connecticut Repertory Theatre Company, the Connecticut Archaeology Center, the Prudence Crandall Museum, the Connecticut Humanities Council, and the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism.
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