The European Bildungsroman since its emergence at the end of the eighteenth century has been the great genre of socialization. Beginning with Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, the Bildungsroman has narrated the story of a protagonist willingly or unwillingly renouncing his or her individualism in order to become part of a social whole. D'Arcy McNickle's The Surrounded, I contend, resignifies the story of the relationship of the individual to society that is the primary element of the narrative formula of the Bildungsroman. Rather than illustrating the renunciation of individualism as it was often imagined in European novels, The Surrounded takes up the complicated nature of socialization in the colonial context of Native America in the early twentieth century. While Archilde Leon, the novel's protagonist, ultimately desires socialization and integration into tribal society, the colonial fragmentation experienced by the novel's Salish community makes that socialization impossible. By adapting the Bildungsroman to represent this historical situation, McNickle's novel forces us to rethink theories of the genre that have focused primarily on the European case. In the somewhat unorthodox final section of the essay, I argue that economic theories of uneven development illuminate why McNickle's novel transforms the Bildungsroman as it does. It is my claim that theories of uneven development, while at first glance seemingly unrelated to questions of literary history, help explain why writers from the colonial spaces of modernity do not have to reproduce the social logics of Euro-American modernity even when they take up one of its most canonical literary forms.
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Enrique Lima; The Uneven Development of the Bildungsroman: D'arcy McNickle and Native American Modernity. Comparative Literature 1 September 2011; 63 (3): 291–306. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-1335754
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