The American Bildungsroman of the 19th and the 20th Century

Course title: The American Bildungsroman of the 19th and the 20th Century
Assoc. Prof. Jelena Šesnić
Spring 2012/13, 2018/19
BA program

Course description:
Bildungsroman as a genre addresses the process of the acquisition of social and cultural identity taking as its representative figure the bourgeois subject in the making. Another significant fault line operating in the genre deals with the issue of different paths of emergence for male and female subjects, respectively, showing interesting parallels and exemplary divergences. These parallel developments will be pursued in a number of representative texts while simultaneously offering a chronological line of development of the genre within US-American literature. Cultural models of the “invention of childhood” (Ph. Ariès ), psychoanalytic models of subject formation and generic criticism will be the dominant methods of approach to the novels that retain their focus on fascinating processes of individual identity formation.

Primary works:
1. Horatio Alger: Ragged Dick (1868)

2. Louisa May Alcott: Little Women (1868, 1869)
3. Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)
4. Paule Marshall: Brown Girl, Brownstones (1959)
5. Bobbie Ann Mason: In Country (1985)
6. Colson Whithead: Sag Harbour (2009)

Secondary readings:
– Ariès, Philippe. Centuries of Childhood. New York: Vintage, 1962. (selection)

– Bakhtin, Mikhail. Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Austin: U of Texas P, 1986. (selection)
– Moretti, Franco. The Way of the World: The Bildungsroman in European Culture. 1987. New ed. London: Verso, 2000. (selection)

– Reader for the course containing additional secondary sources.

Grade break-down: Grades in the seminar are based on the system of continuous evaluation: tests (midterm and final: 40%); seminar paper (6-7 pp.; 30%); attendance and participation (10%); assignments (20%).