Bildung and initiation : interpreting German and American narrative traditions
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This thesis is divided into two main parts. The first, comprising the three initial chapters, looks, in chapter one, at the specifically German origins of the Bildungsroman, its distinctive features, and the difficulties surrounding its transplantation into the literary contexts of other countries. Particular attention is paid to the ethical dimension of the genre, i.e. to the relation between the individual self and the exterior world, and how it affects individual formation. The focus then shifts to American literature, and the term 'narrative of initiation' is recommended as a credible alternative to 'Bildungsroman'. Allowing for similarities between them, it is none the less strongly suggested that the Bildungsroman of German origin and the American narrative of initiation should be seen as being intrinsically different, principally because of the different cultural backgrounds that shaped them. Several features of the theme of initiation are postulated as decisive factors in the discrepancies between the initiatory narrative and the Bildungsroman. Analysis of six texts - three of each literary tradition - follows, to provide support for the theoretical discussion of the terms introduced in chapter one. Three Bildungsromane are considered in the second chapter, namely Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, Stifter's Der Nachsommer and Keller's Der grune Heinrich, and three narratives of initiation in chapter three: Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Crane's The Red Badge of Courage and Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. Their relevance to the tradition of German and American fiction as a whole and as precursors of Mann's Der Zauberberg and Hemingway's The Nick Adams Stories is considered. A direct comparison between Mann's and Hemingway's texts constitutes the second part of this thesis, wholly contained in chapter four. In addition to a comprehensive critical reading of both narratives, the contemporaneity of Der Zauberberg and The Nick Adams Stories is taken into account, and consequently special consideration is given to the texts' close relation with the cultural and historical realities of the early twentieth century, particularly the impact of the First World War. With the assistance of Jung's theories, an increased awareness of death and of the dark side of the psyche - though dealt with differently in both texts - is put forward as a significant factor in the deviation of Der Zauberberg and The Nick Adams Stories from the traditions of the Bildungsroman and of the narrative of initiation. This departure leads to a re-appraisal of the relation between the protagonists and their society, and to a new ethical attitude that presupposes different, more modem conceptions of what Bildung and initiation represent in the context of the early twentieth century. How and why they changed and if they survived as literary notions are questions this thesis attempts to answer.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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