/bil"doongz roh mahn'/; Ger. /beel"doongks rddaw mahn'/, n., pl. Bildungsromans, Ger. Bildungsromane /-mah'neuh/.
a type of novel concerned with the education, development, and maturing of a young protagonist.
[1905-10; < G, equiv. to Bildung formation + -s n. ending in compounds + Roman novel]

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(German; "novel of character development")

Class of novel in German and other literature that deals with the formative years of the main character, whose moral and psychological development is depicted.

It ends on a positive note, with the hero's foolish mistakes and painful disappointments behind him and a life of usefulness ahead. It grew out of folklore tales in which a dunce goes out into the world seeking adventure. The first novelistic development of the theme, Johann W. von Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship (1795–96), remains a classic example.

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▪ German literary genre
German“novel of formative education”

      class of novel in German literature that deals with the formative years of an individual.

      The folklore tale of the dunce who goes out into the world seeking adventure and learns wisdom the hard way was raised to literary heights in Wolfram Von Eschenbach's medieval epic Parzival and in Hans Grimmelshausen (Grimmelshausen, Hans Jacob Christoph von)'s picaresque tale Simplicissimus (1669). The first novelistic development of this theme was Christoph Martin Wieland (Wieland, Christoph Martin)'s Geschichte des Agathon (1766–67; History of Agathon). It was followed by J.W. von Goethe (Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von)'s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795–96; Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship), which remains the classic example of the genre. Other examples are Adalbert Stifter (Stifter, Adalbert)'s Nachsommer (1857; “Indian Summer”) and Gottfried Keller (Keller, Gottfried)'s Der grüne Heinrich (1854–55; Green Henry). The Bildungsroman traditionally ends on a positive note, though its action may be tempered by resignation and nostalgia. If the grandiose dreams of the hero's youth are over, so are many foolish mistakes and painful disappointments, and a life of usefulness lies ahead, especially in novels of the 19th century. The Bildungsroman of the 20th century, though, more often ends in resignation or death.

      A common variation of the Bildungsroman is the Künstlerroman, a novel dealing with the formative years of an artist. Such other variations as the Erziehungsroman (“novel of upbringing”) and the Entwicklungsroman (“novel of character development”) differ only slightly from the Bildungsroman, and these terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

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