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Coming-of-age story

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Illustration for Little Women, a classic 1869 coming-of-age novel featuring four female protagonists

In genre studies, a coming-of-age story is a genre of literature, theatre, film, and video game that focuses on the growth of a protagonist from childhood to adulthood, or "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 teenagers.[1] The Bildungsroman is a specific subgenre of coming-of-age story.

The plot points of coming-of-age stories are usually emotional changes within the character(s) in question.[2]


In literary criticism, coming-of-age novels and Bildungsroman are sometimes interchangeable, but the former is usually a wider genre. The Bildungsroman (from the German words Bildung, "education", alternatively "forming" and Roman, "novel") is further characterized by a number of formal, topical, and thematic features.[3] It focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from childhood to adulthood (coming of age),[4] in which character change is important.[5][6][7]

The genre evolved from folk tales of young children exploring the world to find their fortune.[8] Although the Bildungsroman arose in Germany, it has had extensive influence first in Europe and later throughout the world. Thomas Carlyle had translated Goethe's Wilhelm Meister novels into English, and after their publication in 1824/1825, many British authors wrote novels inspired by it.[9][10]

Many variations of the Bildungsroman exist, such as the Künstlerroman ("artist novel"), which focuses on the self-growth of an artist.[11]

Teen films[edit]

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. A variant in the 2020s is the "delayed-coming-of-age film, a kind of story that acknowledges the deferred nature of 21st-century adulthood", in which young adults may still be exploring short-term relationships, living situations, and jobs even into their late 20s and early 30s.[12]

Personal growth and change is an important characteristic of the genre, which relies on dialogue and emotional responses, rather than action. The story is sometimes told in the form of a flashback.[1] Historically, coming-of-age films usually centred on young boys, although coming-of-age films focusing on girls have become more common in the early 21st century, such as The Poker House (2008), Winter's Bone (2010), Hick (2011), Girlhood (2014), Mustang (2015), The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015), Mistress America (2015), The Edge of Seventeen (2016), Lady Bird (2017), Sweet 20 (2017), Aftersun (2022) and Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. (2023).[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b 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.
  2. ^ Romero, Travis (2020). "Coming Of Age". Ginglu. Retrieved December 7, 2020.
  3. ^ Iversen, Annikin Teines (2010). Change and Continuity; The Bildungsroman in English (Thesis). Tromsø: Arctic University of Norway, Munin open research archive. hdl:10037/2486. Retrieved May 21, 2024.
  4. ^ Lynch, Jack (1999). "Glossary of Literary and Rhetorical Terms". Guide to Literary Terms. Rutgers University. Archived from the original on 5 August 2011. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  5. ^ Bakhtin, Mikhail (1996). "The Bildungsroman and its Significance in the History of Realism". In Emerson, Caryl; Holquist, Michael (eds.). Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-292-79256-2. OCLC 956882417.
  6. ^ Jeffers, Thomas L. (2005). Apprenticeships: The Bildungsroman from Goethe to Santayana. New York: Palgrave. p. 2. ISBN 1-4039-6607-9.
  7. ^ "Bildungsroman: German literary genre". Encyclopædia Britannica. 22 April 2013.
  8. ^ Cicchelli, Vincenzo (2010). "Les legs du voyage de formation à la Bildung cosmopolite". Le Télémaque (in French). 38 (2): 57–70. doi:10.3917/tele.038.0057. ISSN 1263-588X. Archived from the original on 2022-11-15. Retrieved 2022-06-20. Franco Moretti et John Neubauer, historiens de la littérature, ont tous deux insisté sur le rôle fondamental qu'a joué le roman, depuis la fin du XVIIIe siècle jusqu'à la Première Guerre mondiale, dans la construction des âges de la vie, de l'adolescence et la jeunesse. Si, avant cette période, les jeunes sont les laissés-pour-compte de la littérature romanesque, cette entrée tardive est compensée par la place centrale qu'ils occupent dans le roman de formation. Vers la fin du XIXe siècle, quand ce genre entre en crise, les jeunes sont remplacés par les adolescents, nouveaux protagonistes des œuvres de fiction. Après les écrits de Jean-Jacques Rousseau, le roman de formation, ou Bildungsroman, dont l'apogée se situe entre Les années d'apprentissage de Wilhelm Meister de Goethe (1795–1796) et l'Éducation sentimentale de Flaubert (1869), invente la figure littéraire du jeune homme voyageur. C'est à partir donc de cette période qu'il faudra retrouver certains traits des voyages fictionnels, que j'appelle matrices , qui hantent encore notre imaginaire, et que l'on retrouve dans les séjours Erasmus contemporains
  9. ^ Buckley, J. H. (1974), Season of Youth: The Bildungsroman from Dickens to Golding, Harvard Univ Press, ISBN 978-0-67479-640-9.
  10. ^ Ellis, L. (1999), Appearing to Diminish: Female Development and the British Bildungsroman, 1750–1850, London: Bucknell University Press, ISBN 978-0-83875-411-5
  11. ^ Werlock, James P. (2010). The Facts on File companion to the American short story. Vol. 2. p. 387. ISBN 9781438127439.
  12. ^ Murthi, Vikram (10 March 2022). "The Wonder and Horror of Delayed Adulthood". The Nation. Archived from the original on 10 December 2022. Retrieved 10 March 2022.
  13. ^ Erbland, Kate (December 5, 2017). "7 Female-Centric Coming-of-Age Movies to Watch If You Loved 'Lady Bird'". IndieWire. Archived from the original on November 15, 2022. Retrieved June 19, 2022.