The most interesting article on bildungsroman I found is Leisha Jones’ “Contemporary Bildungsromans and the Prosumer Girl.” In this piece, Jones examines the modern iteration of the traditional bildungsroman story in the popular young adult book series “Twilight,” written by Stephanie Miller. Although the books analyzed in this article differ greatly from what we will be reading in class, I find the article enlightening in its dissection of how the bildungsroman style can become feminized and modernized, and how reader response and use of social media adds to the coming of age narratives.
Bildungsroman is defined by Jones as a ” novel of formation, learning, maturation, and enlightenment” (445). This is a journey that, “begins with a child coming of age, a rising action event distancing that individual from predetermined assumptions and mores, and the long and arduous process of self-discovery toward a maturity that includes the assimilation of contemporary cultural values and the participation and recognition of that individual by society” (446).Traditionally, Bildungsromans have been about men, as it was popularized in early 19th century Germany. Jones describes the form as becoming less and less widespread in the 20th century, only to have a contemporary resurgence with a few twists. She discusses the growing popularity of the female subject, and how this has called for a particularly feminine bildungsroman based on female social norms and roles. This can include, “learning to be submissive, accepting pain as a female condition, equating sexuality with danger, marrying after the inevitable failure of a rebellious autonomy, and regressing from full societal participation in order to actualize the inconsequential status of the female self” (440). These ideas are not only applicable to “Twilight,” but can be used to analyze any of the narratives we will be reading.
Jones focuses on “Twilight’s” version of the bildungsroman, and particularly how it affects what she refers to as the “prosumer” girl reader, which is a hybrid of producer and consumer. In other words, girls who are not simply readers, but girls who take their reading and produce fan fiction or publish their responses and discussions through websites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and blogs. This “digital fan culture” they are partaking in demonstrates the role the novel plays in contemporary readers’ lives, especially when it comes to young girls reading coming of age narratives (454). The narrative becomes more than just a book, it becomes apart of the reader’s-and the popular- consciousness.
Reading Leisha Jones article is highly informative about both traditional and contemporary versions of the bildungsroman. Her creative interpretation of the popular “Twilight” series and its proactive female readers gave me ideas of how to approach the coming of age literature we will be reading in this course, and my own responses via social media sites. Although her subject choice is a far cry from Chicana and Latina literature, her article proves, “The bildungsroman now reflects the diversity of authorial experience, including the lives and cultures of others such as women, the disabled, gays and lesbians, immigrants, the diasporic, and the girl” (446). This diversity is what I hope to explore in the texts we will be reading, connecting literary traditions with contemporary, culturally-specific life experiences.
Leisha Jones. “Contemporary Bildungsromans and the Prosumer Girl.” Criticism 53.3 (2011): 439-469. Project MUSE. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Direct Link: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/criticism/v053/53.3.jones.html