Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Hunt Hawkins, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Marty Gould, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gurleen Grewal, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ylce Irizarry, Ph.D.


post-colonial, British, African, African-American, feminist


My goal with this dissertation was to discover more about how the Bildungsroman genre in English or the coming-of-age story became a staple of post-colonial and ethnic minority writing. I grew up reading novels like these and feel a great deal of affection for them, and I wanted to understand how authors writing in these other traditions represented a broader response to colonialist Western culture. My method was to survey philosophical approaches to subjectivity and subject-formation, read a wide variety of texts I understood as engaging with the Bildung tradition, and examining how they represented subject-formation.

While I originally saw the appropriation of the genre as a revolutionary act that fundamentally changed the nature of the Bildungsroman, I found that the Bildungsroman contained a germ of this oppositional, in Theodor Adorno’s terminology non-identical, subjectivity throughout its existence as a type in English literature. The opposition of writers of Bildung to heteronormative, racist, and sexist discourse is what brought out this non-identical strain more forcefully and ultimately culminated in contemporary manifestations of the Bildungsroman that reject essentialism and understand subjectivity as strategic, hyphenated, and positioned against a centered, stable identity.

The positive significance of studying these texts as featuring a de-centering literary subject is that it demonstrates how this mode of writing, including a future anterior narrator that reflects on his or her past experiences as usable material for fashioning a durable and adaptive self, empowers subjects to exert greater control over their own self-fashioning. Students learn empathy and agency from witnessing the struggles of these protagonists to tell their stories.