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An antihero or antiheroine is a main character in a story who lacks conventional heroic qualities such as idealism, courage, and morality.
The antihero archetype can be traced back at least as far as Homer's Thersites. The concept has also been identified in classical Greek drama, Roman satire, and Renaissance literature such as Don Quixote and the picaresque rogue.
The term antihero was first used as early as 1714, emerging in works such as Rameau's Nephew in the 18th century, and is also used more broadly to cover Byronic heroes as well.
Literary Romanticism in the 19th century helped popularize new forms of the antihero, such as the Gothic double. The antihero eventually became an established form of social criticism, a phenomenon often associated with the unnamed protagonist in Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground. The antihero emerged as a foil to the traditional hero archetype, a process that Northrop Frye called the fictional "centre of gravity." This movement indicated a literary change in heroic ethos from feudal aristocrat to urban democrat, as was the shift from epic to ironic narratives.
The antihero became prominent in early 20th century existentialist works such as Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis (1915), Jean-Paul Sartre's La Nausée (1938) (French for Nausea), and Albert Camus' L'Étranger (1942) (French for The Stranger). The protagonist in these works is an indecisive central character who drifts through his life and is marked by ennui, angst, and alienation.
The antihero entered American literature in the 1950s and up to the mid-1960s was portrayed as an alienated figure, unable to communicate. The American antihero of the 1950s and 1960s (as seen in the works of Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, et al.) was typically more proactive than his French counterpart; with characters such as Kerouac's Dean Moriarty famously taking to the road to vanquish his ennui. The British version of the antihero emerged in the works of the "angry young men" of the 1950s. The collective protests of Sixties counterculture saw the solitary antihero gradually eclipsed from fictional prominence, though not without subsequent revivals in literary and cinematic form.
In sports fiction, the sporting antihero, such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, is not a team player, challenges officialdom, and seeks financial gain over club loyalty, yet still acquires a large fan following by way of his/her actualization of the rebel archetype.
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- ^ a b "Antihero - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. 2012-08-31. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
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- ^ Steiner, George (2013). Tolstoy Or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism. New York: Open Road. pp. 199–200. ISBN 9781480411913.
- ^ "Literary Terms and Definitions B". Web.cn.edu. Retrieved 2014-09-06.
- ^ Alsen, Eberhard (2014). The New Romanticism: A Collection of Critical Essays. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis. p. 72. ISBN 9781317776000. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
- ^ Simmons, David (2008). The Anti-Hero in the American Novel: From Joseph Heller to Kurt Vonnegut (1st ed. ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 5. ISBN 9780230612525. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
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- ^ Steiner, George (2013). Tolstoy Or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism. New York: Open Road. pp. 201–207. ISBN 9781480411913.
- ^ a b Frye, Northrop (2002). Anatomy of Criticism. London: Penguin. p. 34. ISBN 9780141187099.
- ^ Barnhart, Joe E. (2005). Dostoevsky's Polyphonic Talent. Lanham: University Press of America. p. 151. ISBN 9780761830979.
- ^ Asong, Linus T. (2012). Psychological Constructs and the Craft of African Fiction of Yesteryears: Six Studies. Mankon: Langaa Research & Publishing CIG. p. 76. ISBN 9789956727667.
- ^ Gargett, Graham (2004). Heroism and Passion in Literature: Studies in Honour of Moya Longstaffe. Amsterdam [u.a.]: Rodopi. p. 198. ISBN 9789042016927.
- ^ Brereton, Geoffery (1968). A Short History of French Literature. Penguin Books. pp. 254–255.
- ^ Hardt, Michael; Weeks, Kathi (2000). The Jameson Reader (Repr. ed.). Oxford, UK ; Malden, Mass.: Blackwell. pp. 294–295. ISBN 9780631202707.
- ^ Edelstein, Alan (1996). Everybody is Sitting on the Curb: How and why America's Heroes Disappeared. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. p. 18. ISBN 9780275953645.
- ^ Ousby, Ian (1996). The Cambridge Paperback Guide to Literature in English. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 27. ISBN 9780521436274.
- ^ Edelstein, Alan (1996). Everybody is Sitting on the Curb: How and why America's Heroes Disappeared. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. p. 1. ISBN 9780275953645.
- ^ Hardt, Michael; Weeks, Kathi (2000). The Jameson Reader (Repr. ed.). Oxford, UK ; Malden, Mass.: Blackwell. p. 295. ISBN 9780631202707.
- ^ Delaney, Tim; Madigan, Tim (2009). The Sociology of Sports: An Introduction. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co. pp. 72 & 284. ISBN 0786441690.
- ^ Handelsman, Bud (2009). Families And How To Survive Them. London: Random House Ebooks. pp. 202–203. ISBN 1407011030.
- Simmons, David (2008). The Anti-Hero in the American Novel: From Heller to Vonnegut. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-230-60323-8.
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