Facing the hero
Reflective-Artistic research: Contemporary mirrorings of the archetypal hero.
Joseph Campbell distilled “the hero’s journey” 5 when analysing the great classic stories. It is the
story of the hero who receives a call, and -after reflection- leaves his known world . Within his
quest, his suffering on a physical and psychological level leads up to a solution for the danger that
threatens his community. Transformational heroes are driven by ideals, an inner need, while
transactional heroes prefer instrumental action and seek pragmatic solutions. Both types keep the
dream alive that collective happiness can be installed. Because they possess admirable qualities,
we -as audiences- want to emulate them.
The hero is archetypal and universal, but at the same time he has a thousand faces. For the
classics the hero was a God-man or a king’s son. The hero has been democratized in the
Enlightenment and deconstructed in postmodernity. He was replaced by the failing antihero, who
translates the confusion and disappointment of the audience.
But today, the hero has made his comeback. More and more popular narrative genres (science
fiction, horror, rom-com) centre their story around the re-building of new societies or around the
question of how to survive after a major mishap. Within more realistic contexts, however, that
collective imagination seems to lead to heroizations that are infected with a moral ambivalence.
Many academics are rather critical of the hero because of his prototypical manliness or as an
exponent of a meritocratic worldview.
The dreams nor the desire are dead, and the need to mirror oneself in heroes is still strong, but
the role and face of the contemporary hero itself has become thoroughly problematic. Facing the
hero wants to explore which faces (personae) the hero has to put on in order to make an appeal
to the present and future generations. To what extent can a critical approach of the concepts
‘hero’ and ‘hero’s journey’ inspire young drama students and artists from other programs –
through interdisciplinary research- in order to reflect and create?
In Facing the hero LUCA Drama enters into partnerships with two theatre companies and the
department Animation Movie (campus Sint-Lukas). Each of the six artistic work packages,
embedded in the education program, will tackle a specific aspect of the overall research
questions. A team of doctoral researchers and academics provides a reflective framework for all
the artistic work packages and thereby cooperates with the international partner, the Albrecht-
Ludwigsuniversität of Freiburg (Germany)