What is a  thorough definition of bildung as translated into Anglo-American thought?

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linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A bildungsroman is a coming of age story (bildung means "formation"; roman means "novel"). Literally, it is a novel that tells about the formation of a central character. According to the eNotes article, the first bildungsroman is The History of Agathon by Christoph Martin Wieland (1766-67) and that Johann W. von Goethe "took the form from philosophical to personal development and gave celebrity to the genre" with his Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship (1795).

Often, but not always, that character is an extension of the author; it is a way for the author to tell his or her own story in the form of fiction and not autobiography. An example of this type of coming of age story is Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.

Other examples that are not autobiographical are The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy.

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npdckrsn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I had to look this one up: Source--A Handbook to Literature, 5th edtion, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1986.

The "Apprenticeship Novel" is the same thing as the "Bildungsroman."  It is based on the story of a young person who learns or attempts "to learn the nature of the world, discover its meaning and pattern, and acquire a philosophy of life and the 'art of living.'" (p. 35)

Goethe's Wilhelm Meister is considered the pattern for this type of book. Later authors who used the same type of book: Samuel Butler--The Way of All Flesh, James Joyce--A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Somerset Maugham--Of Human Bondage, Thomas Wolfe--Look Homeward Angel.

If you have read Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, you will have a picture of Pip in your head and know that he seemed to start out without a clue.  That work is also written as if it were an autobiography and tells his story with what seems like an innocent viewpoint.

I hope that is of help to you.