The Bildungsroman (German pronunciation: [ˈbɪldʊŋs.ʁoˌmaːn]; German: "education novel") is a term coined in literary criticism,[1] that purportedly defines a genre of the novel which focuses on the psychological and moral[citation needed] growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood,[2] and in which character change is thus extremely important.[3] The term was coined in 1819 by philologist Karl Morgenstern in his university lectures, and later famously reprised by Wilhelm Dilthey, who legitimized it in 1870 and popularized it in 1905.[4][1] The genre is further characterized by a number of formal, topical, and thematic features.[5] 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 Goethe’s The Apprenticeship of Wilhelm Meister in 1795-96.[6] Although the Bildungsroman arose in Germany, it has had extensive influence first in Europe and then later throughout the world. Thomas Carlyle translated Goethe’s novel into English, and after its publication in 1824, many British authors wrote novels inspired by it.[citation needed] In the 20th century, the genre has been particularly popular among women writers,[7][Need quotation to verify] and among minority writers;[8][Need quotation to verify] and it has spread to Germany, Britain and France,[9] and several other countries around the globe.[citation needed] The genre translates fairly directly into cinematic form.

A Bildungsroman tells about the growing up or coming of age of a sensitive person who is looking for answers and experience. The genre evolved from folklore tales of a dunce or youngest son going out in the world to seek his fortune. Usually in the beginning of the story there is an emotional loss which makes the protagonist leave on his 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 he is 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.

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,[citation needed] while a Künstlerroman ("artist novel") is about the development of an artist and shows a growth of the self.[10]



See also

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  1. ^ a b Engel (2008) p.263
  2. ^ Lynch (1999)
  3. ^ Bakhtin, 1996, p.21. Jeffers, 2005. p.2
  4. ^ Summerfield (2010) p.1
  5. ^ Iversen 2010; Change and Continuity
  6. ^ Jeffers, 2005, p. 49
  7. ^ Abel et al. (1983). This work is maybe the first literary criticism on female Bildungsroman. Such literary criticism has since multiplied, and this in turn attests the spread of the genre.
  8. ^ Examples of literary criticism on the “ethnic” or non-European Bildungsroman include Feng, Otano, Japtok, Karafilis, and Nyatetu-Waigwa[page needed]
  9. ^ Moretti (1987) and Hirsh[page needed]
  10. ^ Werlock, James P. (2010) The Facts on File companion to the American short story, Volume 2, p.387
  11. ^ Joy Palmer, Liora Bresler, David Edward Cooper (2001). Fifty major thinkers on education: from Confucius to Dewey. Routledge. p. 34. ISBN 0415231264. 
  12. ^ a b McWilliams, Ellen (2009) Margaret Atwood and the female bildungsroman, p.14 quotation:

    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.

  13. ^ "Candide". Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  14. ^ "The Bildungsroman in Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism". Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  15. ^ "Martin Eden Summary - Jack London - Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition". Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  16. ^ Geoffrey Nash, "Ameen Rihani's The Book of Khalid and the Voice of Thomas Carlyle," New Comparison Journal, no. 17, The British Comparative Literature Association, University of Essex, Colchester, UK, 1994.
  17. ^ "Sons and Lovers Lawrence's novel as a Bildungsroman". Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  18. ^ James Joyce. "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Summary & Study Guide - James Joyce". Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  19. ^ Hendriksen, Jack; This side of paradise as a Bildungsroman; isbn: 0820418528
  20. ^ Mukherjee, Meenakshi (1985). Realism and reality : the novel and society in India. Oxford University Press. p. 128. ISBN 0195616480 
  21. ^
  22. ^ Kercheval, Jesse Lee. "Continuing Conflict". Building Fiction. The Story Press. p. 101. ISBN 1884910289. 
  23. ^ "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit: Context". Sparknotes. 1959-08-27. Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  24. ^ "Secret Life of Bees-Character Analysis". Sparknotes. Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  25. ^ Khaled Hosseini (1965-03-04). "Katherine C. (Berwyn, PA)'s review of The Kite Runner". Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  26. ^ "The Top 13 Coming-of-Age Novels | The Top 13". 2009-12-09. Retrieved 2011-04-21. 


  • Abel, Elizabeth, Marianne Hirsch, and Elizabeth Langland. 1983. The Voyage In: Fictions of Female Development. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England.
  • Bakhtin, Mikhail. Mikhail. 1996. “The Bildungsroman and its Significance in the History of Realism.” In Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Edited by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin, Tex.: University of Texas Press, 10-59.
  • Engel, Manfred (2008): Variants of the Romantic 'Bildungsroman' (with a Short Note on the 'Artist Novel')". In: Gerald Gillespie, Manfred Engel and Bernard Dieterle (eds.), Romantic Prose Fiction (= A Comparative History of Literatures in European Languages, vol. XXIII; ed. by the International Comparative Literature Association). Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins, pp. 263–295. ISBN 978-90-272-3456-8.
  • Iversen, Anniken Telnes (2009): Change and Continuity: The Bildungsroman in English. University of Tromsø, Munin.
  • Jeffers, Thomas L. (2005). Apprenticeships: The Bildungsroman from Goethe to Santayana. New York: Palgrave. ISBN 1403966079. 
  • Lynch, Jack (1999) Glossary of Literary and Rhetorical Terms, entry for bildungsroman, Rutgers University
  • Summerfield, Giovanna and Downward, Lisa (2010) New Perspectives on the European Bildungsroman

Further reading




  • Abrams, M. H. (2005). Glossary of Literary Terms (8th ed.). Boston: Thomson Wadsworth. ISBN 1413002188. 
  • Feng, Pin-chia Kingston A. 1997. The Female Bildungsroman by Toni Morrison and Maxine Hong Kingston: A Postmodern Reading, Modern American Literature: New Approaches. New York: Peter Lang.
  • Japtok, Martin Michael. 2005. Growing up Ethnic: Nationalism and the Bildungsroman in African-American and Jewish-American Fiction. University of Iowa Press.
  • Karafilis, Maria. 1998. "Crossing the Borders of Genre: Revisions of the Bindungsroman in Sandra Cisneros's the House on Mango Street and Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John." Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association. 31, no. 2: 63-78.
  • Minden, Michael (1997): The German Bildungsroman: Incest and Inheritance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Moretti, Franco. 1987. The Way of the World: The Bildungsroman in European Culture. London: Verso.
  • Nyatetu-Waigwa, Wangari wa. 1996. The Liminal Novel: Studies in the Francophone-African Novel as Bildungsroman. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.
  • Otano, Alicia. 2005. Speaking the Past: Child Perspective in the Asian American Bildungsroman, Contributions to Asian American Literary Studies. Lit Verlag.

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  • bildungsroman — BILDUNGSROMÁN, bildungsromane, s.n. (lit.) Roman care prezintă procesul de formare a unui caracter (2). – Din germ. Bildungsroman. Trimis de paula, 21.06.2002. Sursa: DEX 98  bildungsromán s. n. → roman Trimis de siveco, 13.09.2007. Sursa:… …   Dicționar Român

  • Bildungsroman — 1910, from Ger. Bildungsroman, from Bildung education, formation, growth (from Bild picture, image, figure; O.H.G. bilade) + roman novel (see ROMANCE (Cf. romance)). A novel set in the formative years, or the time of spiritual education, of the… …   Etymology dictionary

  • bildungsroman — bildungsròmān m <G bildungsromána> DEFINICIJA knjiž. roman koji se bavi odgojem i formiranjem ličnosti, roman o odrastanju ETIMOLOGIJA njem. Bildungsroman …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • bildungsroman — [bil′dooŋz΄rō män΄] n. pl. bildungsromans [Ger] a novel that details the maturation, and specif. the psychological development and moral education, of the principal character: also Bildungsroman [bil′dooŋks rō̂ män΄] n. Bildungsromane… …   English World dictionary

  • Bildungsroman — ● Bildungsroman Mot allemand signifiant roman de formation (ou d éducation) et désignant une forme romanesque qui décrit la formation morale et intellectuelle d un héros (Wilhelm Meister de Goethe) …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Bildungsroman — /ted. ˈbɪlduŋzʀoˌman/ [lett. «romanzo (Roman) di educazione, formazione (Bildung)»] s. m. inv. (letter.) romanzo di formazione …   Sinonimi e Contrari. Terza edizione

  • Bildungsroman — Ein Bildungsroman thematisiert die Entwicklung einer meist jungen Hauptfigur. Das Genre entstand Ende des 18. Jahrhunderts in Deutschland. Der Begriff stammt aus Vorträgen des Dorpater Philologen Karl Morgenstern, der im Bildungsroman die „das… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Bildungsroman — Roman d apprentissage Le roman d apprentissage, ou roman de formation est un genre littéraire romanesque né en Allemagne au XVIIIe siècle (à ne pas confondre avec le roman de jeunesse). On parle aussi de roman initiatique et, par ailleurs,… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Bildungsroman — El término alemán Bildungsroman (pronunciación: [ˈbɪldʊŋs.roˌmaːn]) significa literalmente novela de aprendizaje o formación y se aplica a aquella en la que se muestra el desarrollo físico, moral, psicológico y/o social de un personaje,… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Bildungsroman — /bil doongz roh mahn /; Ger. /beel doongks rddaw mahn /, n., pl. Bildungsromans, Ger. Bildungsromane / mah neuh/. a type of novel concerned with the education, development, and maturing of a young protagonist. [1905 10; < G, equiv. to Bildung… …   Universalium

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