In genre studies, a coming-of-age story is a genre of literature and film that focuses on the growth of a protagonist from youth to adulthood ("coming of age"). Coming-of-age stories tend to emphasize dialogue or internal monologue over action, and are often set in the past. The subjects of coming-of-age stories are typically males in their mid teens. Themes of maturation, acculturation, loss of innocence, the acquisition of wisdom, acumen or worldliness are often present.
The bildungsroman is a specific subgenre of coming-of-age story. It is especially prominent in literature and focuses on the protagonist's psychological and moral growth, and thus character change is extremely important.
- The Telemachy in Homer's Odyssey (8th century BC)
- Hayy ibn Yaqdhan, by Ibn Tufail (12th century)
- The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, by Henry Fielding (1749)
- The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne (1759)
- Candide, by Voltaire (1759)
- The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger (1951)
In film, coming of age is a genre of teen films. Coming-of-age films focus on the psychological and moral growth or transition of a protagonist from youth to adulthood. Personal growth and change is an important characteristic of this genre, which relies on dialogue and emotional responses, rather than action. The main character is typically male, around mid-teen and the story is often told in the form of a flash-back. Less common to novels, themes of developing sexual identity and political opinions are often featured in coming-of-age films; so, too, is philosophical development. These sexual themes are often presented in a comic or humorous manner.
Films in this sub-genre include American Graffiti (1973), Mischief (1985), Dazed and Confused (1993) and Almost Famous (2000). Historical coming-of-age films have become especially popular in the post war period. Johnny Tremain (1957) tells the story of a Revolutionary War-era silversmith's apprentice, both literal and metaphoric. However, most of these stories are set no more than 20 years prior to date when they were first produced. These movies feature protagonists in particular age groups, such as pre-teens in films like The Sandlot (1993) and My Girl (1991) to high school graduates and college students in movies such as American Pie (1999), Can't Hardly Wait (1998), and With Honors (1994). Television series include Happy Days, Boy Meets World, Freaks and Geeks and The Wonder Years.
- Benyahia, Sarah Casey; Gaffney, Freddie; White, John (2006). As Film Studies: The Essential Introduction. Essentials Series. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-415-39311-6. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
- Bakhtin, 1996, p. 21. Jeffers, 2005. p. 2
- Joy Palmer, Liora Bresler, David Edward Cooper (2001). Fifty major thinkers on education: from Confucius to Dewey. Routledge. p. 34. ISBN 0-415-23126-4.
- McWilliams, Ellen (2009). Margaret Atwood and the Female Bildungsroman. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-7546-6027-9. "The two early English Bildungsromane already mentioned, Tom Jones and The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, are examples of coming-of-age narratives that predate the generic expectations of the German tradition."
- "Candide". Fajardo-acosta.com. Retrieved 21 April 2011.
- Fox, Levi (2002). "The Historical Coming of Age Genre". Were Those the Days? Historical Coming of Age Films in American Culture. American Studies, University of Virginia. Retrieved 5 May 2011.