Be it the top-down secularism of the Kemalist reforms or the authoritarian conservatism of the present Islamist government, the political will in Turkey has persistently ignored the individual, the most valuable component of democratic modernity. The Turkish bildungsroman voices the confusion that spreads from this contradiction. Being doomed to a state of eternal puberty, the novelistic hero cannot go out into the world and take his place in the history of civilization/culture (Bildung). This is especially true for the female Bildungsheld, who finds it even harder to find a spot in the public sphere, which in the Turkish case has come to imply a realm that belongs to the state or its institutions (kamu), a strictly masculine space. Not being able to manifest herself within social structures, she fails to take part in the network of actual give-and-take that defines all exchanges in the symbolical realm. Focusing on the femininity of the “eternally ill” “Beautiful Soul” (in Goethe's Wilhelm Meister) and the social masculinism of the bildungsroman, this essay refers to the elaboration of the same theme by Hegel and Lacan and traces variations of this neurotic character in the Turkish novel.

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