Wendy Swartz, professor of medieval Chinese literature in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, was interviewed by Esquire. The interview appears in an article on heroism, "On Their Best Behaviour," in the April edition of Esquire (Singapore, International Edition).
“The idea of the hero is back in the air,” says Wendy Swartz, professor of Chinese literature at Rutgers University, New Jersey, who last autumn created a course on heroism. “People generally think of heroism as a demonstration of selfless, extraordinary bravery, and that’s true. But it’s also the product of cultural and historical traditions: a hero in one account might be a rebel in another, what’s heroic in war isn’t necessarily the case in peacetime. There are also gendered ideas of heroism.”
In other words, our conception of the hero is in flux and, she reckons, still changing. Some might rather say that it’s being diluted: people we look up to for all manner of reasons are referred to as our heroes; commemorations of the late basketball player Kobe Bryant frequently called him a star and a legend, but also a hero. We confuse celebrity and hero. People who undoubtedly do good deeds are likewise typically referred to as such. As Swartz puts it, “the line between ‘hero’ and ‘decent person’ is very fine, but there’s still a line there”.
Here is the link to the entire article.