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Title: The Re-Bildung of American fictions of female development
Author: Bolaki, Styliani
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2007
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This thesis explores how Jamaica Kincaid’s At the Bottom of the River (1978) and Lucy (1990), Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street (1984), Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior (1976), and Audre Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of my Name (1982) and The Cancer Journals (1980) stretch the generic category of the Bildungsroman. These texts reframe and multiply the sites of tension between individual desire and the demands of socialisation, which is what the novel of development negotiates. Tracing the kind of ideological functions both the traditional and contemporary versions of the genre are expected to fulfil, I draw attention to all those resisting elements in my texts, both thematic and formal, which trouble the trajectory and closure of the Bildungsroman, highlighting the unassimilable conflicts and particularities that cannot be represented by such forms. All the texts considered challenge from various, but related, perspectives the developmental narrative of American assimilation, which disciplines memory, affiliation, language, and the body, and criticise the pressure of “normality”, which implies blindness to other experiences and histories. The four chapters examine authors from diverse backgrounds, and this comparative framework is intended to help identify similarities and differences when it comes to the use of the Bildungsroman in new contexts of American literature. Kincaid, Cisneros, Kingston and Lorde Problematise what it means to be or to become “American” by interrogating discourses such as mobility, individualism, transcendence and happiness underlying both the conventional novel of development and conceptions of American identity. In order to show the variety of critical responses that the Bildungsroman elicits, my detailed readings of the texts draw on the insights of theories like poststructuralism, postcolonial studies and feminism. Moreover, I situate the texts within discussions of concepts that have gained theoretical currency in the last years such as trauma, hybridity, translation and disability. The larger goal of this study is to move towards a firmer understanding of the Bildungsroman as more than a narrative of private formation but as “the story of a cultural moment, its uncertainties and desires” (Fraiman 144) and, thus, as an apt vehicle for social and political comment.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available