The Bildungsroman and the Transformation of a Literary Genre
Explorations of emotional development, self-formation, and coming-of-age themes are universal and timeless when it comes to literature. They’re central themes in many outstanding works and can be traced from before the Greeks into the modern-day. However, examining personal growth and life experiences within a new canvas and genre, the Bildungsroman provided post-colonial writers with an entirely new palate from which to draw insight and a unique opportunity to portray widely different protagonists responding to modern challenges. Perhaps the most recognized features of the form, dealing with education, rebellion, and reconciliation, are exemplified in Oscar Wilde’s aesthetic gothic novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, where the author so extraordinarily deconstructed the bildungsroman, that his masterpiece fundamentally transformed the genre.