Few genres have proved as elusive as that of the bildungsroman, an observation confirmed by many of the critical studies devoted to it, beginning with Jeffrey Sammons's 1981 landmark essay (“The Mystery of the Missing Bildungsroman”) and culminating in Marc Redfield's distinguished 1996 monograph (Phantom Formations). In his new exploration of the genre, Tobias Boes partially concurs when remarking on the bildungsroman's constitutive “nonfulfillment” (25) of its generically coded objectives and on the “stylistically dissimilar” (3) nature of many works associated with the genre (Stendhal, George Eliot, James Joyce, Alfred Döblin). At the same time, Formative Fictions seeks to extricate itself from the bildungsroman's formal and conceptual maze and its seemingly intractable epistemology. Having made a valiant effort in his introduction to sort through the by now quite comprehensive critical literature on the genre and its rich bearing on...

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