HC 421H: Modernity Goes to School

Professor: Martin Klebes

4.00 credits

  • CRN 26362: Monday & Wednesday, 0815-0945 @ REMOTE

In this Colloquium we will trace the devolution of the Bildungsroman, the novel of education, formation, and coming of age, in modernity. Since its emergence in the 18th century, novels in this genre tended to narrate individual development as a process of integration into society, but the 20th century thoroughly turns this dynamic on its head. In the texts we will study, individuals repeatedly remain (or become) separated from a collective, rather than merging with it and adopting its values. Growing up is here depicted as a process fraught with anxiety, misdirection and even violence, and one that at times inspires dreams of escaping the here and now. We will be foregrounding texts in which education and socialization happen in the context of institutions that aim to socialize young adults with a view to efficiency, conformity to norms, and the accumulation of social capital. In several instances the tie between “education” and fascism is immediate (Bernhard; Goldschmidt). Moving towards the present in the second half of the course, we will also consider a decolonialist Bildungsroman (Dangarembga), and different takes on the meaning of learning in disorienting contemporary times (Lerner). We will study literary representations of a variety of learning environments, drawing on the German (Hesse), Austrian (Musil; Bernhard), Swiss (Walser), French-German (Goldschmidt), Nigerian (Dangarembga), and U.S.-American (Lerner) traditions. In addition, we will read a number of philosophical texts that probe the changing notions of what education/Bildung can (still) signify in the 20th and 21st centuries.