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“I haven’t what’s called a principle of growth”: The Awkward Age, o la formazione impossibile

The story of Nanda Brookenham narrated in The Awkward Age, Henry James’s 1899 novel, challenges the Bildungsroman as a genre featuring the growth and
the social and moral fulfilment of its middle-class protagonists. The Awkward Age denies the revolutionary and emancipatory essence of the bourgeoisie, which, as the nineteenth-century ruling class, had gradually relinquished its past revolutionary aspirations.
The novel’s adult protagonists, thus, reiterate obsolete and repressive practices of power that annihilate, rather than encourage, Nanda’s growth and emancipation. Moreover, the novel questions the very principle of growth as individual improvement. This assumption is exploded as purely ideological rather than natural or neutral. Whereas humanistic thought and tradition have postulated the universality of any individual aspiration to achieve maturity, as a condition of both moral and social fulfillment, James’s novel reframes human temporality as singular, fragmented and not necessarily teleologically constructed.

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Fiorenzo Iuliano
titolo rivista di riferimento: 
Il Bildungsroman negli Stati Uniti: una storia problematica
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