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date: 13 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Bildungsromane, which arose concurrently with industrialized capitalism, are characterized by the integration of the social process with the development of an individual, but the English variety is distinguished from the French and German by its overriding ethical concern. This essay asserts that the category of the English Bildungsroman can be further subdivided into novels of accountability and novels of empowerment, taking Austen’s Emma and Dickens’ Great Expectations as examples of the former and Dickens’ David Copperfield and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre as examples of the latter. All share the same ethical impulses and ultimate goal of teaching people how to live in the world, but they differ in the troubling ways the Bildungsromane of empowerment represent violence. In what establishes itself as the Victorian Bildungsroman, the “moral” is defined as dynamic and context-specific, residing not in a general, normative truth but in the particulars of lived experience. The “counsel” readers then take away lies in the value that the stories themselves place on human experience.

Keywords: Jane Austen Accountability, Bildungsroman, Charlotte Brontë, David Copperfield, Charles Dickens, Emma, Empowerment, Great Expectations, Jane Eyre, Ethics, Morality, Realism

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