The Postcolonial Bildungsroman

deadline for submissions: 
October 31, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
American Comparative Literature Association
contact email: 

Originally an 18th-century German innovation, the bildungsroman became a popular literary genre across the Anglo-American world during the 19th century. A ‘coming of age’ novel about young adults in search of meaning, the genre was the literary medium of choice for many Western writers exploring the moral and psychological developments of characters traversing unfamiliar worlds and encountering new challenges and adventures. The 20th century has seen a revival of interest in this genre; Indian writers like UR Ananthamurthy and Anita Desai; African and African diasporic writers like Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and Abdulrazak Gurnah; and Maori writers like Witi Ihimaera have employed the bildungsroman to confront issues ranging from decolonization to self-determinacy, from social change to conflicts of traditions and modernity. Such literary projects have also inspired work in theory. The human rights scholar Joseph Slaughter has identified in the bildungsroman an influential model that ‘normalizes the story of enfranchisement’ by making socially marginal figures visible. The bildungsroman has likewise become a crucial element of Four Nations concerns revolving around core and periphery, Irish independence, and Welsh crises of language, class, and identity. This seminar brings scholars of literary studies to interrogate the different articulations of the postcolonial bildungsroman and to examine the intersection of traditional forms with modern questions of identity and disruption. Interested participants may contact the seminar co-organizers Arnab Roy ( and Matthew C. Jones( Please submit abstracts (limit 300 words) via the ACLA website.