Shaping Heroic Virtue

Studies in the Art and Politics of Supereminence in Europe and Scandinavia


In his Nichomachean Ethics (VII.I.I), Aristotle suggests the possibility of a perfection of virtue so extreme that it could be characterized as “heroic” or “divine”. In Shaping Heroic Virtue, eight scholars from different fields of the humanities explore the reception of this notion within a broad range of artistic, political and religious contexts and map its enduring importance in the self-fashioning of monarchs and political elites. The case studies included in the volume span from Late Antiquity to the 18th century and include material from different parts of Europe, with a particular emphasis on Scandinavia.

Contributors include Erik Eliasson, Stefano Fogelberg Rota, Andreas Hellerstedt, Kristine Kolrud, Jennie Nell, Nils Holger Petersen, Tania Preste and Biörn Tjällén.

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Stefano Fogelberg Rota, Ph.D. (2008), Stockholm University, is a researcher at the Department of Literature at Uppsala University. He has published widely on Queen Christina and her cultural patronage. His research interests include also travel literature from Italy in the 18th century.

Andreas Hellerstedt, Ph.D. (2009), Stockholm University, is an historian of ideas and coordinator of the multidisciplinary research project “Teaching Virtue”, Department of History, Stockholm University. His main research interest is in political ideas in Sweden and Northern Europe ca 1650-1750.

Erik Eliasson, Ph.D. (2005), Uppsala University, is a Fellow at HCAS, Helsinki. His research covers Middle Platonism, Neoplatonism, and the Aristotelian tradition, including The Notion of that Which Depends on Us in Plotinus and its Background. Philosophia Antiqua, Vol. 113, Brill 2008.

Nils Holger Petersen, Ph.D. (1994), University of Copenhagen, is Associate Professor of Church History, having published widely on music and drama within the history of Christianity. He is editor for music for The Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception.

Biörn Tjällén, Ph.D. (2007), Stockholm University, is a researcher at the Stockholm University Department of History and has published on topics of medieval historiography and political thought.

Kristine Kolrud, Ph.D. (2006), University of Oslo, is Research Fellow in the History of Art at Stockholm University. Her research focuses on Italian Renaissance and Baroque art, and she has published on questions of art, power, religion and gender.

Tania Preste, Ph.D. (2007), Università degli Studi di Trento, is a scholar at the Department of History at Stockholm University. Her research focuses on the educational politics of the elites in early modern Europe and on the building of collective identities.

Jennie Nell, Ph.D. (2012), Stockholm University, is senior lecturer in Comparative Literature. She specializes in Swedish, British, American and French literature of the 18th century, and Greco-Roman rhetoric. Her current research includes the reception of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in Sweden c. 1760-1830.


Section I: Heroic virtue between active and contemplative life in Late Antiquity and High Middle Ages

Erik Eliasson, The late ancient development of a notion of Heroic Virtue

Nils Holger Petersen, “Heroic Virtue” in Medieval Liturgy?

Biörn Tjällén, Aristotle’s heroic virtue and medieval theories of monarchy

Section II: Kingly and Aristocratic Representations of Heroic Virtue in Early Modern Savoy and Rome

Kristine Kolrud, The gem and the mirror of heroic virtue: Emanuele Tesauro and the heroic at the court of Savoy

Stefano Fogelberg Rota, Anti-Protestant Heroic Virtue in Early Modern Rome: Queen Christina (1626-1689) and Senator Nils Bielke (1706-1765)

Section III: The Theory and Practice of Heroic Virtue in Early Modern Sweden

Tania Preste, The Virtues of the King in Swedish Mirrors for Princes from the Fourteenth to the Seventeenth Centuries

Andreas Hellerstedt, The Absolute Hero: Heroic Greatness and Royal Absolutism in Sweden 1685-1715

Jennie Nell, The Enlightened Hero. Virtue, Magnanimitas, and Glory in Panegyric Poetry on Gustavus III 1771-1792


All interested in the history of virtue ethics from Antiquity until the 18th century and, in particular, in the uses of heroic virtue for the self-fashioning of political elites.
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