bil·​dungs·​ro·​man | \ ˈbil-du̇ŋ(k)s-rō-ˌmän How to pronounce bildungsroman (audio) , -du̇ŋz- \

Definition of bildungsroman

literature : a novel about the moral and psychological growth of the main character a bildungsroman by Charles Dickens

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Bildungsroman is the combination of two German words: Bildung, meaning "education," and Roman, meaning "novel." Fittingly, a bildungsroman is a novel that deals with the formative years of the main character, and in particular, with the character's psychological development and moral education. The bildungsroman usually ends on a positive note, with the hero's foolish mistakes and painful disappointments over, and a life of usefulness ahead. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's late 18th-century work Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship) is often cited as the classic example of a bildungsroman. Though the term is primarily applied to novels, in recent years some English speakers have begun to apply it to films that deal with a youthful character's coming-of-age.

Examples of bildungsroman in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The MacGuffin that unites the thriller with the bildungsroman is a fiddle once played by PopPop, Ray’s enslaved great-great-grandfather, probably the son of the master of the Marks plantation. Paula L. Woods, Los Angeles Times, 9 Mar. 2022 In the language in which it was written, however, it is often described not as a bildungsroman—a general novel of maturation—but more specifically as an Erziehungsroman: a novel of education and training. Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker, 17 Jan. 2022 Another thing that distinguishes this particular bildungsroman is the age of its heroine. Los Angeles Times, 4 Jan. 2022 Aside from being a phenomenal bildungsroman, the novel stands the test of time. Usa Today Staff, USA TODAY, 27 Sep. 2021 Then a fifty-five-page bildungsroman written in short sections with boldface titles. Adam Dalva, The New Yorker, 15 July 2021 Other aspects of the virus’s unfolding bildungsroman, however, are much harder to forecast, or even get an initial read on. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 28 June 2021 Her growth as a writer resembles a bildungsroman just on its own; readers wondered, on the edge of their seats, what her next piece would be. Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, 18 June 2021 Hemingway first came to light as a short story writer, which featured the rugged outdoor exploits and bildungsroman of Nick Adams, his recurring alter-ego, who lived, fished, and loved in Northern Michigan. Will Jeakle, Forbes, 4 Apr. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bildungsroman.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of bildungsroman

1906, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for bildungsroman

German, from Bildung education + Roman novel

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The first known use of bildungsroman was in 1906

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Cite this Entry

“Bildungsroman.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 May. 2022.

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Nglish: Translation of bildungsroman for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about bildungsroman


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