Original Research

Shaping the self: A Bildungsroman for girls?

I. Noomé
Literator | Vol 25, No 3 | a267 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v25i3.267 | © 2004 I. Noomé | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 July 2004 | Published: 31 July 2004

About the author(s)

I. Noomé, Department of English, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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This article proposes that two alternative forms of the “Bildungsroman” developed from circa 1860 to 1960, featuring young female protagonists and aimed at girls as a readership.

To explore this proposition, the article initially focuses on three girls’ series to see whether they meet the criteria for classification as a “Bildungsroman”: the South African “Soekie” series written in Afrikaans by Ela Spence, the well-known Canadian “Anne of Green Gables” series by L.M. Montgomery, and the German “Pucki” series by Magda Trott. In these series girls have to learn through experience as they move toward happiness and maturity. Secondly, the article explores the presentation of the female quest, as well as some development options “in parallel” in such novels as Louisa May Alcott’s now classic “Little women” and “Good wives”.

The article concludes that some novels for girls move towards an exploration of personal development from childhood to maturity, but that the criteria for the “Bildungsroman” should be adjusted to include forms other than the single novels and novels focused on one protagonist that are more typical of the “male” “Bildungsroman”. It also suggests that the criteria for maturity, self-actualisation and social integration need qualification in the “female” version of this genre.


Bildungsroman; Female Protagonist; Girls Series; LM Mongomery; Ela Spence; Magda Trott; Louisa May Alcott


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Crossref Citations

1. “I’ve never belonged to anybody—not really”: Space, place, and the bildungsroman in L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables (1908)
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