Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Degree Granting Department
Hunt Hawkins, Ph.D.
Marty Gould, Ph.D.
Gurleen Grewal, Ph.D.
Ylce Irizarry, Ph.D.
post-colonial, British, African, African-American, feminist
My goal with this dissertation was to discover more about how the Bildungsroman genre in English or the coming-of-age story became a staple of post-colonial and ethnic minority writing. I grew up reading novels like these and feel a great deal of affection for them, and I wanted to understand how authors writing in these other traditions represented a broader response to colonialist Western culture. My method was to survey philosophical approaches to subjectivity and subject-formation, read a wide variety of texts I understood as engaging with the Bildung tradition, and examining how they represented subject-formation.
While I originally saw the appropriation of the genre as a revolutionary act that fundamentally changed the nature of the Bildungsroman, I found that the Bildungsroman contained a germ of this oppositional, in Theodor Adorno’s terminology non-identical, subjectivity throughout its existence as a type in English literature. The opposition of writers of Bildung to heteronormative, racist, and sexist discourse is what brought out this non-identical strain more forcefully and ultimately culminated in contemporary manifestations of the Bildungsroman that reject essentialism and understand subjectivity as strategic, hyphenated, and positioned against a centered, stable identity.
The positive significance of studying these texts as featuring a de-centering literary subject is that it demonstrates how this mode of writing, including a future anterior narrator that reflects on his or her past experiences as usable material for fashioning a durable and adaptive self, empowers subjects to exert greater control over their own self-fashioning. Students learn empathy and agency from witnessing the struggles of these protagonists to tell their stories.
Scholar Commons Citation
Fennell, Jarad Heath, "The Non-Identical Anglophone Bildungsroman: From the Categorical to the De-Centering Literary Subject in the Black Atlantic" (2016). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.