Constructing heroism in the time of Covid

Amir Marvasti, Travis Saylar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this chapter, we examine how the concept of heroism was defined and used during the Covid pandemic in 2020, particularly in connection with the nursing profession. We begin with a sociological examination of heroism and courage. Using textual data from US newspapers, we then compare current constructions of nurses as heroes with views of them during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. The analysis will show that during the earlier pandemic nurses were seen as essential health workers who were in great demand, but there was little reference to them being heroic. However, with Covid, nurses were often presented in the media as heroes. This was largely done by transposing the 'emotion codes' (Loseke, 2009) of warfare on the Covid crisis. Emotion codes like 'fighting the enemy at home', 'sacrifice', 'bravery' and 'service to the country' were used rhetorically to construct the admin¬istration of medical care in the context of a pandemic as inherently coura- geous and heroic. We end by arguing that the expansion of the concepts of heroism and courage, especially in the context of a profession dominated by women, offers new possibilities for a less masculine orientation toward courage and heroism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Emerald Handbook of the Sociology of Emotions for a Post-Pandemic World
Subtitle of host publicationImagined Emotions and Emotional Futures
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781803823232
ISBN (Print)9781803823249
StatePublished - Apr 14 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences

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