Formative Fictions

Formative Fictions

Nationalism, Cosmopolitanism, and the Bildungsroman

eBook - 2012
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Baker & Taylor
The "Bildungsroman", or "novel of formation, " has long led a paradoxical life within literary studies, having been construed both as a peculiarly German genre, a marker of that country's cultural difference from Western Europe, and as a universal expression of modernity. In 'Formative Fictions', Tobias Boes argues that the dual status of the Bildungsroman renders this novelistic form an elegant way to negotiate the diverging critical discourses surrounding national and world literature. Since the late eighteenth century, authors have employed the story of a protagonist's journey into maturity as a powerful tool with which to facilitate the creation of national communities among their readers. Such attempts always stumble over what Boes calls "cosmopolitan remainders, " identity claims that resist nationalism's aim for closure in the normative regime of the nation-state. These cosmopolitan remainders are responsible for the curiously hesitant endings of so many novels of formation.

Cornell University Press
Boes argues that the dual status of the Bildungsroman renders this novelistic form an elegant way to negotiate the diverging critical discourses surrounding national and world literature.

The Bildungsroman, or "novel of formation," has long led a paradoxical life within literary studies, having been construed both as a peculiarly German genre, a marker of that country's cultural difference from Western Europe, and as a universal expression of modernity. In Formative Fictions, Tobias Boes argues that the dual status of the Bildungsroman renders this novelistic form an elegant way to negotiate the diverging critical discourses surrounding national and world literature.

Since the late eighteenth century, authors have employed the story of a protagonist's journey into maturity as a powerful tool with which to facilitate the creation of national communities among their readers. Such attempts always stumble over what Boes calls "cosmopolitan remainders," identity claims that resist nationalism's aim for closure in the normative regime of the nation-state. These cosmopolitan remainders are responsible for the curiously hesitant endings of so many novels of formation.

In Formative Fictions, Boes presents readings of a number of novels—Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, Karl Leberecht Immermann’s The Epigones, Gustav Freytag’s Debit and Credit, Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz, and Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus among them—that have always been felt to be particularly "German" and compares them with novels by such authors as George Eliot and James Joyce to show that what seem to be markers of national particularity can productively be read as topics of world literature.



Book News
Boes (German, U. of Notre Dame) offers a stimulating analysis of the bildungsroman genre that departs from what he considers the traditional interpretation of "the protagonist's fulfillment in a national ideal." Instead he draws on Karl Morgenstern's lecture on the novel of formation to advance a "'performative understanding of Bildung," one which "moves discussions of the genre away from the realm of phantoms, specters, and fictional personalities, and toward a consideration of what narratives actually does, namely offer a coherent account of events as they exist in time." To this end, he argues that bildungsroman and the broader concept of bildung are both responses to the rise of historicism and its promise of a radically different relationship to time, change, and identity. He reads from mostly 18th and 19th century German works, including Wilhelm Meister's Apprentice, The Red and the Black, The Epigones, Debit and Credit, Doctor Faustus, but also non-German and non-European novelists who are in similar ways responding to changing sensibilities regarding time and national identity. To this end, he argues that the bildungsroman is a genre of world literature rather than a national one. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Publisher: Cornell University Library,, 2012
Ithaca, N.Y. :, Cornell University Press :, 2012
ISBN: 9780801465659
0801465656
0801478030
9780801465659
Characteristics: 1 online resource (x, 201 pages)

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