The Byronic Hero in Film, Fiction, and Television bridges nineteenth- and twentieth-century studies in pursuit of an ambitious, antisocial, arrogant, and aggressively individualistic mode of hero from his inception in Byron’s Manfred, Childe Harold, and Cain, through his incarnations as the protagonists of Westerns, action films, space odysseys, vampire novels, neo-Gothic comics, and sci-fi television. Such a hero exhibits supernatural abilities, adherence to a personal moral code, ineptitude at human interaction (muddled even further by self-absorbed egotism), and an ingrained defiance of oppressive authority. He is typically an outlaw, most certainly an outcast or outsider, and more often than not, he is a he. Given his superhuman status, this hero offers no potential for sympathetic identification from his audience. At best, he provides an outlet for vicarious expressions of power and independence. While audiences may not seek to emulate the Byronic hero, Stein notes that he desires to emulate them; recent texts plot to “rehumanize” the hero or to voice through him approbation and admiration of ordinary human values and experiences.
Tracing the influence of Lord Byron’s Manfred as outcast hero on a pantheon of his contemporary progenies—including characters from Pale Rider, Unforgiven, The Terminator, Alien, The Crow, Sandman, Star Trek: The Next Generation,and Angel—Atara Stein tempers her academic acumen with the insights of a devoted aficionado in this first comprehensive study of the Romantic hero type and his modern kindred.
Atara Stein was a professor of English at California State University, Fullerton. Her articles on the development of the Byronic hero have appeared in Popular Culture Review, Romantic Circles Praxis Series, Genders, and Philological Quarterly.