The Myth of the Heroine: The Female Bildungsroman in the Twentieth Century: Dorothy Richardson, Simone de Beauvoir, Doris Lessing, Christa Wolf

The Myth of the Heroine: The Female Bildungsroman in the Twentieth Century: Dorothy Richardson, Simone de Beauvoir, Doris Lessing, Christa Wolf

The Myth of the Heroine: The Female Bildungsroman in the Twentieth Century: Dorothy Richardson, Simone de Beauvoir, Doris Lessing, Christa Wolf

The Myth of the Heroine: The Female Bildungsroman in the Twentieth Century: Dorothy Richardson, Simone de Beauvoir, Doris Lessing, Christa Wolf

Synopsis

Is there a myth of the heroine similar, but not identical, to the male Bildungsroman, the novel of development? In this new study Esther K. Labovitz scrutinizes the social and spiritual quest of the heroine. The image that emerges in fact signals the future total development of personality - or Bildung of real life women and their fictional counterparts. Labovitz compares the writings of four authors of the female Bildungsroman, Dorothy Richardson, Simone de Beauvoir, Doris Lessing and Christa Wolf, establishing a common ground among them as they trace the heroine's growth and quest.

Excerpt

An early predilection for the Bildungsroman and its literary tradition led me through a circuitous route to the present study. Reading Goethe Wilhelm Meister, the archetype of the genre, and its successor, Gottfried Keller Green Henry, or the nineteenth century English imitators, Samuel Butler The Way of All Flesh and Charles Dickens' Great Expectations; or the two French versions of the genre, Gustave Flaubert A Sentimental Education, and Stendhal The Red and the Black; discovering the twentieth century variants of the Bildungsroman in Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain and Doctor Faustus, both signalling the end of an epoch and the impossibility of continuing a tradition; or Hermann Hesse Demian and The Glass Bead Game; James Joyce A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, among many more too numerous to list, I became devoted to this discursive and all-encompassing vehicle which could weave together so many threads of a fife while positing philosophical and psychological questions.

However, I soon became aware of the missing female heroine from this genre, and her failure to make an appearance in the novels of the nineteenth century when the Bildungsroman was at its height opened up questions of a historical, social, and cultural nature. With the upsurge of contemporary woman's fuller participation in society, it might follow that her historical development would be reflected in the fiction of the twentieth century; therefore I sought her out in the twentieth century writings of women. An account of the belated arrival of the female Bildungsroman seemed then not only imperative but unavoidable. Since embarking upon this study, current interest . . .

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