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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Candidacy Essay One


A Case for Further Study of the Heroic Code and the Warriors Who Serve It


Eric Williams

Advancement to Candidacy Examination

Essay One

Humanities External Degree

July 3, 2003

Warfare has intrigued me for years. Throughout studies as an undergraduate, I gravitated towards those courses which featured focused looks at various battles in history and the major players within those conflicts. The Western Humanities courses I enrolled in looked at the evolution of the arts from a historical perspective and each chapter had a section dedicated to better understanding how warfare shaped the cultures of an age and how the arts reflected those changes. My literature courses also tended towards a look at warfare with selections covering Arthurian Legend, Chivalric Code, Revolutionary Writers in France, and further glimpses of warfare through the works of Heller, Vonnegut, O’Brien, and Hemingway.

My journey into Graduate School saw a continuation of this interest while enrolled in the HUX 530 class: War and the Human Experience with Dr. Bryan Feuer. Through this class, study was made in the historical and factual element of warfare through the writings of John Keegan and others. Additional study was made available through literary selections such as All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Remarque and Henry V by William Shakespeare. By far the most enjoyable was Homer’s Iliad and the written assignment for that text has proven to be the most dynamic and interesting of the graduate papers I have written to date.

In the assignment I was required to discuss Homer’s concept of the warrior as a hero. Further, I was to explain the underlying relationship between the hero and the society of which he is a part. In researching this project, I came to learn much about the intrinsic values and qualities attributed to the warrior class of ancient Greece. Further, I came to understand the price of failure of these heroes and the penalty for losing their honor through cowardice or insult. I also came to understand the ideology of hero worship and how the institution of Greek warrior-heroes eventually waned and disappeared. With the completion of this essay and this class, I garnered a new respect for the Greek warrior-hero and was curious as to how other cultures affirm the qualities that make a warrior-hero.

The root idea of understanding the concept of the warrior-hero is quite worthy of further study. It lends itself nicely to further, expanded consideration as a possible final thesis topic in that Feuer has already provided the groundwork for understanding how one culture (if not more) views the warrior’s role in society, and which qualities make him heroic. Additional research could take one of three possible directions. First, a student could opt to study how other societies contemporary with the ancient Greeks formulated the criteria for a warrior-hero such as the Assyrians, the Hittites, or the Persians. A second possible avenue would be for the student to continue to study how elements of heroism are conceived in other war-like societies in Western Europe, focusing next on the Romans and eventually pressing onward through history till the Christian Crusaders are studied and onward still into knighthood and the chivalric code. Finally, a student could opt to explore the basic elements of the warrior class in foreign cultures and research what qualities make one heroic. Societies, nations, and cultures like the Mongols, Hutu, Aztec, Maori, Saracen, Magyar, and Viking could all be studied in an effort to correlate those warrior ethics which are universally shared and which are dynamically different. As the course is historical in its context, the additional study of other historical peoples would be a rational extension to an already worthy research topic.

Regardless, Dr. Feuer’s class taught me a great deal about the nature of warfare and how both the warrior class and the peasant class binge or suffer based on the prosperity of one another. The course masterfully weaves literary and historical accounts of warfare into a cohesive unit of study and by learning to look through these media, one would be quite capable of further pursuing study of the warrior-hero and his role in the society he represents.

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Graduate of The University of Akron, Graduate of California State University (HUX)

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