Patterns of American Popular Heroism

From Roman and Biblical Roots to Modern Media

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About the Book

The American popular hero has deeply bipolar origins: Depending on prevailing attitudes about the use or abuse of authority, American heroes may be rooted in the traditions of the Roman conquerors of The Aeneid or of the biblical underdog warriors and prophets.
This book reviews the history of American popular culture and its heroes from the Revolutionary War and pre-Civil War “women’s literature” to the dime novel tales of Jesse James and Buffalo Bill. “Hinge-heroes” like The Virginian and the Rider’s of the Purple Sage paved the way for John Wayne’s and Humphrey Bogart’s champions of civilization, while Jimmy Stewart’s scrappy rebels fought soulless bankers and cynical politicians. The 1960s and 1970s saw a wave of new renegades—the doctors of MASH and the rebel alliance of Star Wars—but early 21st Century terrorism called for the grit of world weary cops and the super-heroism of Wonder Woman and Black Panther to make the world safe.

About the Author(s)

James G. Shoopman is an associate professor in the humanities and communication department of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where he teaches comparative religions and Western cultural history.

Bibliographic Details

James G. Shoopman
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 293
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7399-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4155-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments 1
Introduction. There Are Two Kinds: This Is Not the Kind You Can Skip 5
One. Virtue and Victory Defined 15
Two. Aeneas: Roman Prototype of Western European Heroism 37
Three. How Aeneas, the Epic Patriot, Made It to America 54
Four. Early Biblical Heroism: Moses and David 70
Five. The Late Biblical Heroes: Elijah, Jeremiah and Jesus 83
Six. Early American Biblical Heroes: Washington, Women and Slaves 100
Seven. Aeneas in Disguise: The Dime Novel Seth Jones, Detective Nick Carter and Ragged Dick 122
Eight. Dime Novel Biblical Rebellion vs. Aenean Conquerors: Deadwood Dick, Jesse James and Buffalo Bill Compete for Readership 141
Nine. The Hinge Heroes: The Virginian and Lassiter 163
Ten. American Heroes Challenge Evil on the Silver Screen: Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne 180
Eleven. Rebellion of Biblical Proportions at the Movies 209
Twelve. Aeneas Resurgent in the 21st Century: John Wayne Refuses to Leave the Building 234
Chapter Notes 253
Bibliography 265
Index 275