Traditionally linked to the public sphere, the “hero” figure embodies the underlying values shared by a community. But who are the heroes of love – the private experience par excellence? Throughout the ages, what have human cultures identified as heroic love? Is it the love displayed by solid, faithful couples, like Romeo and Juliet (or Superman and Lois Lane), a romantic microcosm transcending space and time which meets its only limit in death? Is it the unrequited love of Phaedra and Madame Butterfly, an unspeakable illness, both physical and mental, which often leads to self-destructive madness? Or is it the free, subversive love of Don Juan and Carmen, which reveals itself through seduction, intoxicating beauty, and sensuality? The book describes the different ways in which the feeling of love has been conveyed in the tales of heroes and heroines in literature, melodrama, and cinema, but also explores examples of reality-based loves involving practical compromises and complex entanglements.
Massimo Fusillo teaches Comparative Literature at the University of L’Aquila.