Beyond Literature Landscapes—Bildungsroman

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


This week’s column serves as an introduction to the Bildungsroman novel, a reminder of some of the genre’s classics, and as an inspiration for further reading.

Bildungsroman can be defined as a type of novel “in which the protagonist develops morally and psychologically.”  The term is a German word, which translates into a novel of education or formation.  These works often end positively, or nostalgically.  Note that although Bildungsroman and “coming-of-age” are often believed to be mean the same types of works, they are different genres.  While the latter is often a tale of maturing, the former focuses on education and growth.

Plot structures often follow a set formula, including loss, which inspires a physical or metaphorical journey, and conflict followed by personal growth, before reaching maturity.

Some examples of well-known authors who have written Bildungsroman novels include Khaled Hosseini, Charlotte Brontë, and Charles Dickens.

Other writers include J.D. Salinger, Jeannette Winterson, and Emily Brontë.


Some well-known works include The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

Other works include The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeannette Winterson, and Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.


These works are set throughout the United Kingdom, the United States, and Afghanistan.



Many of these novels take place during the 19, 20, and 21-centuries.


These novels may be of interest for readers who would like to read works that remind them of their childhoods, who would like to reminisce and indulge in nostalgia, as well as those who would like to read about the childhood’s, youth, and growth of fictional characters, both classic and new.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to the Bildungsroman novel are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in learning more about this topic may enroll in ENGL 395: The Nineteenth-Century English Novel, a senior-level, six-credit course, which “introduces the student to some of the major English novels of the nineteenth century.”  (Note that this course requires ENGL 211: Prose Forms and ENGL 212: Poetry and Plays as prerequisites.)  Happy reading!