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Birgit Eriksson

The Bildungsroman. Goethe and Bruce Chatwin

My project concerns the Bildungsroman in the broadest sense of the word and is based on the hypothesis that this is not a genre that we have left behind in favor of more modern or modernist kinds of novels. The Bildungsroman is alive and we ll in our re ading s bec au se it remains a qu al i fi ed refl ec tion on and contemporary answer to the homelessness that has been the central issue of the genre thematically as well as formally for the past 200 years.

Another source of inspiration for this project has been the discussions of for-mative education also taking place outside of literary contexts today. In connec-tion with the Bildungsroman I address the relationship between tradition and the new, between formative education, science and the critical project of modernity, and Bildung as a concrete formation and search for identity.

Returning to Goethe has been of particular interest, mainly but not exclusively his Bildungsroman Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795-96), a work that is fundamental in establishing the genre. The project centers on the works of two authors, Goethe and Bruce Chatwin, Chatwin's novels being read as exemplary of how the Bildungsroman may be inherited today. The project will be completed in the autumn of 1997. Excerpts are currently available as articles. Previously I have done research in Umberto Eco's theoretical and especially his fictional work and published Umberto Eco (1995).


Updated 23 November 2000 by csc. Please mail comments to the web editor at Centre for Cultural Research.