Queering the Hero
LCC Panel, 2024 Annual Meeting of the SCS, Chicago
Organizers: Rachel Lesser, Gettysburg College and Erin Lam, Bryn Mawr
Over thirty years ago, David Halperin began queering the ancient hero with
his seminal book chapter, “Heroes and Their Pals” (1990), in which he
observes how Gilgamesh in the *Epic of Gilgamesh*, David in the Hebrew
Bible’s Book of Samuel, and Achilles in the *Iliad* all have an intimate
relationship with a male sidekick whose loss both devastates the hero and
is essential to the full realization of his heroic identity; these
friendships are compared to blood kinship and marital ties, and yet are
shown to be something other and greater than those normative bonds.
We welcome papers that, following Halperin and others, analyze how
mythological or historical heroes/heroines of the ancient Mediterranean
world are represented (in literature, art, or other sources) as enacting
queer forms of relationality, desires, behaviors, or identities, which
deviate from norms of sexuality and/or gender. The hero as exceptional or
queer can be thought to confound categorical distinctions, including those
between human and divine as well as human and animal. What might we gain from recognizing Achilles and the Amazons or, less obviously, Oedipus and Medea as queer figures? What affective work—such as inspiring hope, awe, or disgust—might queer heroes perform in the literary and social imaginary?
In addition to work on the hero as queer, we invite discussion of how we
might queer the very term “hero.” Can acts that are not rewarded with
*kleos* be considered heroic? What heroisms can we find in small,
overlooked moments, as opposed to grand gestures? Can collective
groups—e.g. choruses, the Argonauts, the Odyssean suitors—be considered heroes? Moreover, to consider someone a hero is to create an implicit hierarchy in which that hero is placed on a pedestal, as an *exemplum* of societally sanctioned norms. How might we disrupt this normative hierarchization through and against the concept of a hero? What are the implications of such a disruption?
We also encourage papers that claim ancient people or characters as LGBTQ+ heroes who belong in the modern queer archive, as Ella Haselswerdt has done for Sappho in her *Eidolon* essay Re-Queering Sappho (2016). Finally, we seek papers on the explicit queering of ancient heroes and/or the heroizing of ancient queer figures in modern fiction, film/television, poetry, or other media—what could be called “slash reception”—such as Ali Smith’s *Girl Meets Boy *(2007) or Madeline Miller’s *The Song of Achilles* (2011).
If you have questions about the panel topic or proposals, contact Rachel
Lesser (email@example.com). Please send abstracts that follow the
guidelines for individual abstracts (see the SCS Guidelines for Authors of
Abstracts) by email to Walter Penrose, San Diego State University at firstname.lastname@example.org by March 1, 2023. Ensure that the abstracts are anonymous, with self-identifying information removed. The organizers will review all submissions anonymously, and their decision will be communicated to the authors of abstracts by March 31, 2023, with enough time that those whose abstracts are not chosen can participate in the individual abstract submission process for the upcoming SCS meeting.
Please send an anonymous abstract following SCS guidelines as an attachment (with your name and contact information in the email only) to Sarah Levin-Richardson (email@example.com) by April 1, 2022. Please direct any questions to Ky Merkley (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Chris Mowat (email@example.com)