In literary criticism, a Bildungsroman (German pronunciation: [ˈbɪldʊŋs.ʁoˌmaːn], plural Bildungsromane, German pronunciation: [ˈbɪldʊŋs.ʁoˌmaːnə]) is a literary genre that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from childhood to adulthood (coming of age), in which character change is important.[a] The term comes from the German words Bildung ("education", alternatively "forming") and Roman ("novel").
The term was coined in 1819 by philologist Johann Karl Simon Morgenstern in his university lectures, and was later famously reprised by Wilhelm Dilthey, who legitimized it in 1870 and popularized it in 1905. The genre is further characterized by a number of formal, topical, and thematic features. The term coming-of-age novel is sometimes used interchangeably with bildungsroman, but its use is usually wider and less technical.
The birth of the bildungsroman is normally dated to the publication of Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1795–96, or, sometimes, to Christoph Martin Wieland's Geschichte des Agathon of 1767. Although the bildungsroman arose in Germany, it has had extensive influence first in Europe and later throughout the world. Thomas Carlyle's English translation of Goethe's novel (1824) and his own Sartor Resartus (1833–34), the first English bildungsroman, inspired many British novelists. In the 20th century, it spread to France and several other countries around the globe.
Barbara Whitman noted that the Iliad might be the first Bildungsroman. It is not just "the story of the Trojan War. The Trojan War is in effect the backdrop for the story of Achilles' development. At the beginning Achilles is still a rash youth, making rash decisions which cost dearly to himself and all around him. (...) The story reaches its conclusion when Achilles has reached maturity and allows King Priam to recover Hector's body".
The genre translates fairly directly into the cinematic form, the coming-of-age film.
Plot outline Edit
A bildungsroman is a growing up or "coming of age" of a generally naive person who goes in search of answers to life's questions with the expectation that these will result in gaining experience of the world. The genre evolved from folklore tales of a dunce or youngest child going out in the world to seek their fortune. Usually in the beginning of the story, there is an emotional loss which makes the protagonist leave on their journey. In a bildungsroman, the goal is maturity, and the protagonist achieves it gradually and with difficulty. The genre often features a main conflict between the main character and society. Typically, the values of society are gradually accepted by the protagonist and they are ultimately accepted into society—the protagonist's mistakes and disappointments are over. In some works, the protagonist is able to reach out and help others after having achieved maturity.
Franco Moretti "argues that the main conflict in the Bildungsroman is the myth of modernity with its overvaluation of youth and progress as it clashes with the static teleological vision of happiness and reconciliation found in the endings of Goethe's Wilhelm Meister and even Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice".
There are many variations and subgenres of bildungsroman that focus on the growth of an individual. An Entwicklungsroman ("development novel") is a story of general growth rather than self-cultivation. An Erziehungsroman ("education novel") focuses on training and formal schooling, while a Künstlerroman ("artist novel") is about the development of an artist and shows a growth of the self. Furthermore, some memoirs and published journals can be regarded as bildungsroman although claiming to be predominantly factual (e.g. The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac or The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto "Che" Guevara). The term is also more loosely used to describe coming-of-age films and related works in other genres.
- Hayy ibn Yaqdhan, by Ibn Tufail (12th century)
- Lazarillo de Tormes (first edition 1554)
- El Criticón by Baltasar Gracián (first edition 1651). Usually considered the pioneering work in its modern form.
18th century Edit
- Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (Fanny Hill), by John Cleland (1748)
- The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, by Henry Fielding (1749)
- Candide, by Voltaire (1759)
- The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne (1759)
- Geschichte des Agathon, by Christoph Martin Wieland (1767)—often considered the first "true" bildungsroman
- Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship by Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1795–96)
19th century Edit
- The Betrothed, by Alessandro Manzoni (1827)
- The Red and the Black, by Stendhal (1830)
- Sartor Resartus, by Thomas Carlyle (1833–34)
- Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë (1847)
- Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë (1847)
- Netochka Nezvanova, by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1849)
- David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens (1850)
- Green Henry, by Gottfried Keller (1855)
- The Morgesons, by Elizabeth Stoddard (1862)
- Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens (1861)
- Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott (1869)
- Sentimental Education, by Gustave Flaubert (1869)
- The Adolescent, by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1875)
- What Maisie Knew, by Henry James (1897)
20th century Edit
- Kim, by Rudyard Kipling (1901)
- Beneath the Wheel, by Herman Hesse, 1906
- Martin Eden, by Jack London (1909)
- The Book of Khalid, by Ameen Rihani (1911)
- Sons and Lovers, by D. H. Lawrence (1913)
- A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce (1916)
- Demian, by Hermann Hesse (1919)
- This Side of Paradise, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1920)
- The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann (1924)
- Pather Panchali, by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay (1929)
- The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger (1951)
- Children of Violence, by Doris Lessing (1952–1969)
- In the Castle of My Skin, by George Lamming (1953)
- A Separate Peace, by John Knowles (1956)
- Goodbye, Columbus, by Philip Roth (1959)
- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (1960)
- Wake in Fright, by Kenneth Cook (1961)
- The Emperor of Ice-Cream, by Brian Moore (1965)
- Dune, by Frank Herbert (1965)
- The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton (1967)
- A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. Le Guin (1968)
- Bright Lights, Big City, by Jay McInerney (1984)
- Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card (1985)
- Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, by Jeanette Winterson (1985)
- Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami (1987)
- English Music, by Peter Ackroyd (1992)
- Harry Potter, by J. K. Rowling (1997)
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky (1999)
- Naruto, by Masashi Kishimoto (1999)
- Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi (2000)
21st century Edit
- The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd (2002)
- The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini (2003)
- The Fortress of Solitude, by Jonathan Lethem (2003)
- Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005)
- Indecision, by Benjamin Kunkel (2005)
- Black Swan Green, by David Mitchell (2006)
- Indignation, by Philip Roth (2008)[b]
- Sputnik Caledonia, by Andrew Crumey (2008)
- Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan (2018)
See also Edit
- Engel explains that the term has in recent years been applied to very different novels but originally meant a novel of formation of a character, of an individual personality on interaction (including conflict) with society. He also points out that it was, like the "novel of education" (Erziehungsroman), a subgenre of the "novel of development" (Entwicklungsroman).
- Back of the French translation in the "Folio" collection (éditions Gallimard, 2010): "[...] Avec ce roman d'apprentissage, Philip Roth poursuit son analyse de l'histoire de l'Amérique – celle des années cinquante, des tabous et des frustrations sexuelles – et de son impact sur la vie d'un homme jeune, isolé, vulnérable".
- Lynch 1999.
- Bakhtin 1996, p. 21.
- Jeffers 2005, p. 2.
- "Bildungsroman: German literary genre". Encyclopædia Britannica. 22 April 2013. Archived from the original on 28 March 2020.
- Engel 2008, pp. 263–266.
- Summerfield & Downward 2010, p. 1.
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- Jeffers 2005, p. 49.
- Swales, Martin. The German Bildungsroman from Wieland to Hesse. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978. 38.
- Buckley, J. H. (1974). Season of Youth: The Bildungsroman from Dickens to Golding, Harvard Univ Press, ISBN 978-0-67479-640-9.
- Ellis, L. (1999). Appearing to Diminish: Female Development and the British Bildungsroman Archived 26 April 2023 at the Wayback Machine, 1750–1850, London: Bucknell University Press, ISBN 978-0-83875-411-5
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- Slaughter, J. R. (2006). "Novel Subjects and Enabling Fictions: the Formal Articulation of International Human Rights Law", Human Rights, Inc.: The World Novel, Narrative Form, and International Law, Ch. 2 (2007), New York: Fordham University Press, ISBN 978-0-82322-817-1; doi:10.5422/fordham/9780823228171.001.0001.
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- "Franco Moretti et John Neubauer, historiens de la littérature, ont tous deux insisté sur le rôle fondamental qu'a joué le roman, depuis la fin du XVIIIe siècle jusqu'à la Première Guerre mondiale, dans la construction des âges de la vie, de l'adolescence et la jeunesse. Si, avant cette période, les jeunes sont les laissés-pour-compte de la littérature romanesque, cette entrée tardive est compensée par la place centrale qu'ils occupent dans le roman de formation. Vers la fin du XIXe siècle, quand ce genre entre en crise, les jeunes sont remplacés par les adolescents, nouveaux protagonistes des œuvres de fiction. Après les écrits de Jean-Jacques Rousseau, le roman de formation, ou Bildungsroman, dont l'apogée se situe entre Les années d'apprentissage de Wilhelm Meister de Goethe (1795–1796) et l'Éducation sentimentale de Flaubert (1869), invente la figure littéraire du jeune homme voyageur. C'est à partir donc de cette période qu'il faudra retrouver certains traits des voyages fictionnels, que j'appelle matrices , qui hantent encore notre imaginaire, et que l'on retrouve dans les séjours Erasmus contemporains" (Cicchelli Vincenzo, "Les legs du voyage de formation à la Bildung cosmopolite" Archived 4 June 2018 at the Wayback Machine, Le Télémaque, 2010/2 (n° 38), pp. 57–70. DOI: 10.3917/tele.038.0057.
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The two early English Bildungsromane already mentioned, Tom Jones and The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, are examples of coming-of-age narratives that predate the generic expectations of the German tradition.
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Further reading Edit
- Abrams, M. H. (2005). Glossary of Literary Terms (8th ed.). Boston: Thomson Wadsworth. ISBN 1-4130-0218-8.
- Madden, David (1980). "Bildungsroman". A Primer of the Novel: For Readers and Writers. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press. pp. 18–19. ISBN 978-0810812659.
Revised edition, with bibliographic updates by Charles Bane and Sean M. Flory (Scarecrow Press, 2006). ISBN 978-0810857087
- Slaughter, Joseph R. (2011). "Bildungsroman/Künstlerroman". In Logan, Peter Melville (ed.). The Encyclopedia of the Novel. Vol. 1. Oxford; Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 93–97. ISBN 978-1-4051-6184-8.