It should come as no news that contemporary art lacks an idiom appropriate to heroism. We know our heroes too well, we are too intimate with their interior lives ever to allow them to re-assume the epic pedestal. And even the hero of romance—a man like us only more so—has long been a problematical figure. The anti-hero is still the man —although the woman is now allowed to step into the shoes vacated by the romantic hero. She has so much catching up to do since the days when she was only a heroine.

Perhaps no one would miss the old-fashioned male hero if it weren’t for the needs of minorities not yet blasé with heroism—the sort of minorities for whom we prescribe, condescendingly, “role models.” Back in the days when we English speakers were a small and threatened community on the outskirts of Europe, constantly in danger of being overrun by idol-worshiping Viking pirates, we had role...

Introduce yourself to The New Criterion for the lowest price ever—and a receive an extra issue as thanks.
Popular Right Now