The English Bildungsroman Essay

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The English Bildungsroman


The novel has a strong tradition in English literature. In Great Britain, it can trace its roots back to Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe in 1719 (Kroll 23). Since then, the British novel has grown in popularity. It was especially popular in Victorian England. The type of novel that was particularly popular in Victorian England was the novel of youth. Many authors of the time were producing works focused on the journey from childhood to adulthood: Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre, George Eliot wrote The Mill on the Floss, and Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield and Great Expectations. All of these novels trace the growth of a child. In this respect, some of the most popular novels of the nineteenth
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Similarly, the Bildungsroman is characterized by the growth, education, and development of a character both in the world and ultimately within himself.

The Bildungsroman is subcategorized into very specific types of the genre, most often found in German literature. There is the Entwicklungsroman, which can be defined as "a chronicle of a young man's general growth rather than his specific quest for self-culture" (Buckley 13). In other words, a story recounting a man's life rather than focusing on the inner changes that contribute to his maturity. Another form within German literature is the Erziehungsroman; this form is primarily concerned with the protagonist's actual educational process (Buckley 13). Again, the concern is not the overall development of the main character, but a specific aspect of that character's life. Finally, there is the Kunstlerroman. The root Kunstler translates as artist in English. Therefore, this is the development of the artist from childhood until his artistic maturity, focusing on the man as artist rather than the man in general. Dickens' David Copperfield and James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man are both examples of English Kunstlerroman, as the protagonists of both books are writers (Buckley 13).

These categories, while strict within German literature, are more free within English literature. For the most part, it is (within English literature) a…

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