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CHILDREN OF GLOBALIZATION: DIASPORIC COMING-OF-AGE NOVELS IN GERMANY, ENGLAND, AND THE UNITED STATES
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Children of Globalization: Diasporic Coming-of-age Novels in Germany, England, and the United States is an exploration of contemporary Diasporic Coming-of-age Novels written in the context of globalized and de facto multicultural societies. Framed in the long tradition of Bildungsroman studies, this study illuminates the structural transformations that the coming-of-age genre has undergone in contemporary diasporic communities. Children of Globalization analyzes the complex identity formation of first- and subsequent-generation migrant protagonists in globalized rural and urban environments and dissects the implications that these diasporic formative processes have for the tercentennial genre. While the most traditional iteration of the Bildungsroman genre follows male middle-class heroes who forge their identities in a process of complex introspection to become citizens and workers, contemporary Diasporic Coming-of-age Novels represent formative processes that fit into, resist, or even disregard, narratives of nationhood. Recent changes in the global genre are the direct consequence of the intricacies of the formative processes of culturally-hybrid protagonists who must negotiate their access into adulthood and citizenship, and puzzle over sexuality and gender identity, in host societies that at times regard them with contempt and distrust. The study spans three centuries as it traces both perennial and volatile elements of the genre through its contemporary state. In doing so, it identifies thematic and structural seeds which, planted through the centuries in varied locations, have bloomed into nuanced explorations of the self in an interconnected world where regional and national definitions of identity are increasingly contested and in flux.
In order to contextualize the genre and provide evidence of its enduring malleability, the study begins in Germany, tracing what I term Proto-Bildungsromane, long medieval narrative poems that follow the formative processes of knights and heroes in grandiose style. Wolfram von Eschenbach’s thirteenth-century poem Parzival and the coeval Gottfried von Straßburg’s Die Geschichte der Liebe von Tristan und Isolde ponder the development of the self but too heavily rely on destiny to be considered Bildungsromane. Still in Germany, I illustrate the fundamental characteristics of the genre in Wolfgang von Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. In order to showcase the flexibility of the genre, I analyze its early transformations in England in prominent works by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and E. M. Forster. The last four chapters focus on the exciting development of Diasporic Coming-of-age Novels in England, the United States, and Germany. Despite the stark differences between these societies and the particular cultural wealth of diasporic groups that have migrated there, the Diasporic Coming-of-age Novel has enabled sophisticated explorations of identity and belonging in all three countries. As the chapter summaries show, contemporary writers have used the Diasporic Coming-of-age Novel to untangle complicated formative processes, understand the expectations of their social environments, and achieve different levels of belonging and maturity.
With Children of Globalization, I seek to deepen our understanding of the exciting influence that contemporary diasporic movements have on the coming-of-age genre in particular and literary studies in general. Additionally, it is my hope that the exploration of Diasporic Coming-of-age Novels contributes to a capacious understanding of the important role of literature in the study of migration.