In literary criticism, a Bildungsroman (German pronunciation: [ˈbɪldʊŋs.ʁoˌmaːn]; Bildung, meaning "education," and Roman, meaning "novel"; English: novel of formation, education, culture; coming-of-age story)[a] is a literary genre that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood (coming of age), in which character change is extremely important.
The term was coined in 1819 by philologist Karl Morgenstern in his university lectures, and later famously reprised by Wilhelm Dilthey, who legitimated 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 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 translated Goethe’s novel into English, and after its publication in 1824, many British authors wrote novels inspired by it. In the 20th century, it spread to Germany, Britain, France, and several other countries around the globe.
The genre translates fairly directly into cinematic form, the coming-of-age film.
A Bildungsroman relates the growing up or "coming of age" of a sensitive person who goes in search of answers to life's questions with the expectation that these will result from gaining experience of the world. The genre evolved from folklore tales of a dunce or youngest son/daughter going out in the world to seek his/her fortune. Usually in the beginning of the story there is an emotional loss which makes the protagonist leave on his/her 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/she 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, 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 being predominantly factual (an example being 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)
- Parzival, by Wolfram von Eschenbach (early 13th century)
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (late 14th century)
- Lazarillo de Tormes (1554)
- Simplicius Simplicissimus, by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen (1668)
- The Adventures of Telemachus, by François Fénelon (1699)
- 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)
- Emile, or On Education, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1763)
- Geschichte des Agathon, by Christoph Martin Wieland (1767)—often considered the first "true" Bildungsroman
- Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship by Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1795–96)
- Emma, by Jane Austen (1815)
- The Red and The Black, by Stendhal (1830)
- The Captain's Daughter, by Alexander Pushkin (1836)
- Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë (1847)
- Pendennis, by William Makepeace Thackeray (1848–1850)
- David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens (1850)
- Green Henry, by Gottfried Keller (1855)
- Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens (1861)
- Sentimental Education, by Gustave Flaubert (1869)
- The Adventures of Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi (1883)
- The Story of an African Farm, by Olive Schreiner (1883)
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain (1884)
- Pharaoh, by Bolesław Prus (1895)
- What Maisie Knew, by Henry James (1897)
- The Confusions of Young Törless, by Robert Musil (1906)
- Martin Eden, by Jack London (1909)
- The Book of Khalid, by Ameen Rihani (1911)
- Le Grand Meaulnes, by Alain-Fournier (1913)
- Sons and Lovers, by D. H. Lawrence (1913)
- Of Human Bondage, by W. Somerset Maugham (1915)
- A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce (1916)
- Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth by Hermann Hesse (1919, prologue added in 1960)
- Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (1919)
- This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1920)
- The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (1924).
- Pather Panchali, by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay (1929)
- Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell (1936)
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1936)
- Native Son by Richard Wright (1940)
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943)
- The Green Years by A. J. Cronin (1944)
- The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger (1951)
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (for plot character Eustace Scrubb) by C. S. Lewis (1952)
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952)
- Children of Violence by Doris Lessing (1952-1969)
- In the Castle of My Skin, by George Lamming (1953)
- Goodbye, Columbus, by Philip Roth (1959)
- A Separate Peace, by John Knowles (1959)
- The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, by Mordecai Richler (1959)
- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (1960)
- Wake in Fright, by Kenneth Cook (1961)
- Dune, by Frank Herbert (1965)
- The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton (1967)
- A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. Le Guin (1968)
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou (1969)
- Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya (1972)
- The World According to Garp, by John Irving (1978)
- The Discovery of Slowness, by Sten Nadolny (1983)
- The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros (1984)
- Bright Lights, Big City, by Jay McInerney (1984)
- Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card (1985)
- The Cider House Rules, by John Irving (1985)
- Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, by Jeanette Winterson (1985)
- Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami (1987)
- A Prayer For Owen Meany, by John Irving (1989)
- Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry (1989)
- Sophie's World, by Jostein Gaarder (1991)
- English Music, by Peter Ackroyd (1992)
- The Gods Laugh on Mondays, by Reza Khoshnazar (1995)
- Harry Potter, by J. K. Rowling (1997)
- About a Boy, by Nick Hornby (1998)
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky (1999)
- Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi (2000)
- 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)
- Looking for Alaska, by John Green (2005)
- Indecision, by Benjamin Kunkel (2005)
- Black Swan Green, by David Mitchell (2006)
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie (2007)
- Indignation, by Philip Roth (2008).[b]
- Submarine, by Joe Dunthorne (2008)
- Breath, by Tim Winton (2008)
- Paper Towns, by John Green (2008)
- The Solitude of Prime Numbers, by Paolo Giordano (2008)
- Why We Took the Car, by Wolfgang Herrndorf (2010)
- My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante (2012)
- The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt (2013)
- Miss E., by Brian Herberger (2016)
- Come and Take It, by Cody WIlson (2016)
- The Idiot, by Elif Batuman (2017)
- 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 in 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."
- Engel 2008, pp. 263–266.
- "Bildungsroman: German literary genre". Encyclopædia Britannica. 22 April 2013.
- Lynch 1999.
- Bakhtin 1996, p. 21.
- Jeffers 2005, p. 2.
- Summerfield 2010, p. 1.
- Iversen, Annikin Teines (2010). "Change and Continuity; The Bildungsroman in English". University of Tromsø: Munin open research archive.
- 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 Pr. ISBN 978-0-67479-640-9
- Ellis, L. (1999) Appearing to Diminish: Female Development and the British Bildungsroman, 1750-1850, Bucknell University Press, London ISBN 978-0-83875-411-5
- Stein, M., "The Black British Bildungsroman and the Transformation of Britain: Connectedness across Difference" in Barbara Korte, Klaus Peter Müller, editors (1998) Unity in Diversity Revisited?: British Literature and Culture in the 1990s, pp. 89–105, Gunter Narr Verlag, Tübingen ISBN 382-3-35192-3
- Franco Moretti, Albert Sbragia (1987) The Way of the World : the Bildungsroman in European Culture, Verso, London ISBN 978-0-86091-159-3
- Marianne Hirsch, "The Novel of Formation as Genre: Between Great Expectations and Lost Illusions", Genre Vol. 12 (Fall 1979) pp. 293–311, University of Oklahoma
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- Werlock, James P. (2010). The Facts on File companion to the American short story. 2. p. 387.
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- Joy Palmer; Liora Bresler; David Edward Cooper, eds. (2001). Fifty major thinkers on education: from Confucius to Dewey. Routledge Key Guides. p. 34. ISBN 0-415-23126-4.
- "El lazarillo de Tormes" (PDF) (in Spanish). Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte (Spain). 2004. p. 1. Retrieved 24 November 2013.
- McWilliams, Ellen (2009). Margaret Atwood and the Female Bildungsroman. Ashgate Publishing. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-7546-6027-9.
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.
- Robison, James (1 June 2016). "Wrong Move: Utter Detachment, Utter Truth". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- Cortney Lollar (1996). "Jane Eyre: A Bildungsroman". The Victorian Web.
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- Martin Coyle; et al., eds. (1990). Formalism and the Novel: Henry James. Encyclopedia of Literature and Criticism. New York: Routledge Florence. p. 593.
- "Martin Eden Summary – Jack London – Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition". Enotes.com. Retrieved 21 April 2011.
- Geoffrey Nash (1994). "Ameen Rihani's The Book of Khalid and the Voice of Thomas Carlyle". New Comparison Journal. Colchester, UK: The British Comparative Literature Association, University of Essex (17).
- "Sons and Lovers Lawrence's novel as a Bildungsroman". Enotes.com. Retrieved 21 April 2011.
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- Mukherjee, Meenakshi (1985). Realism and Reality: The Novel and Society in India. Oxford University Press. p. 128. ISBN 0-19-561648-0.
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- "George Lamming, West Indian author", Encyclopædia Britannica
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- McGregor, Gaile (1987). "The Technomyth in Transition: Reading American Popular Culture". Journal of American Studies: 387–409. doi:10.1017/S0021875800022891.
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- "Ursula LeGuin's Magical World of Earthsea". Assembly on Literature for Adolescents, National Council of Teachers of English. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
- Jay McInerney. "The Good Life". transcript of podcast.
- "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit: Context". Sparknotes. 27 August 1959. Archived from the original on 3 May 2011. Retrieved 21 April 2011.
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- Lewis, Barry (2007). My Words Echo Thus: Possessing the Past in Peter Ackroyd. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 1570036683.
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- "Wonder Year (Black Swan Green by David Mitchell)". The New York Times. 16 April 2006.
- 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.
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- Nyatetu-Waigwa, Wangari wa. 1996. The Liminal Novel: Studies in the Francophone-African Novel as Bildungsroman. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.
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- 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. The Encyclopedia of the Novel. 1. Oxford; Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 93–97. ISBN 978-1-4051-6184-8.
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