Date Thesis Awarded

4-2019

Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

English

Advisor

Deborah Denenholz Morse

Committee Members

Erin Webster

Mary Ann Melfi

Kathrin Levitan

Abstract

The German term Bildungsroman refers to a “novel of formation,” and although German literary critics have debated its meaning, in Anglo-American criticism it generally denotes a novel concerned with the internal and social development of its main character. In his widely discussed work Season of Youth, Jerome Buckley identifies characteristics of the genre; however, many of the markers of development that Buckley identifies as defining features of the Bildungsroman would be unavailable to middle- and upper-class Victorian women. I argue, therefore, that it would be salient to consider a new literary structure for the female Bildungsroman—one in which personal development for a young woman, rather than following Buckley’s linear path, consists of a series of dynamic negotiations with her social web concerning the nature and extent of the roles she will inhabit as a woman. As the young girl develops into womanhood, the social web she lives in must be “re-imaged” by her critique as an outsider first entering into adulthood, resulting in a female Bildungsroman that is fluid, consisting of narratives of tension punctured by crucial moments of negotiation between the developing heroine and her surrounding community. For this thesis, I have chosen to focus largely on the heroines of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (1847) and Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South (1855), concluding with a brief examination of the literary structures in Anthony Trollope’s The Small House at Allington (1864).

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