David Christian Bahr. The Transnational Bildungsroman: A Historical Summary and Application to Mexicotexan Borderland and Migrant Literature of the 20th Century. Honors Thesis, University of Washington. 2012.
2012 English Department Best Honors Thesis Prize in Literature
This paper investigates the transnational Bildungsroman, a new genre that fully emerged in the 20th century (although there may have been earlier antecedents). It can be described as a hybrid of two different genres: the Bildungsroman, a German coming-of-age tale that dates back to Morgenstern and Goethe, and the transnational novel that, by its depiction of borderlands, migration, or diaspora extends across (in)formal boundaries of land and time. My first goal is to investigate the historical foundations and definition of the bildungsroman novel and the concept of Bildung. I then test the usage of the transnational Bildungsroman genre as a heuristic tool for understanding the transnational experience by performing close readings of two transnational Mexicano novels, George Washington Gómez and The Circuit by Américo Paredes and Francisco Jiménez, respectively. Based on my close readings, I hope to convincingly demonstrate the value of applying the Bildungsroman to transnational literature by showing how, despite having unique experiences, transnational Bildungsroman characters share several qualities as coming-of-age youth. I also explore how a Bildungsroman reading of each of these novels reveals critical differences in the characters' maturation processes. Overall, it is my hope that the reader of this essay will more thoroughly understand the current discourses of Bildung, the Bildungsroman, and transnational literature, and how together they can be used to (1) debunk hegemonic notions of borderland identity, and (2) call attention to the effects of transnational displacement.