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“Who doesn’t like resembling an ancestor?”: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao come Multi-Bildungsroman

At first glance, Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) may appear as a traditional Bildungsroman. Yet, while in a classical Bildungsroman the main character is usually the novel’s only real interest, Oscar, the eponymous character in Diaz’s novel, spends a surprising amount of time off-scene: almost half of the novel tells the story of Oscar’s relatives (his sister, mother, and grandfather). This essay suggests that a better label to describe Oscar Wao’s narrative structure could be Multi-Bildungsroman: a novel composed of multiple, shorter Bildungsroman, tied together by a net of family relationships. Borrowing from Michail Bachtin’s idea of the cyclical nature of Bildungsroman and from György Lukács’ concept of “novel of disillusionment”, the essay intends to critically define the Multi-Bildungsroman as a narrative form. Thematically, the Multi-Bildungsroman appears to recast identity formation as a communal phenomenon, pertaining not only to the individual but to the whole community they belong to. Therefore, by recasting the fulfillment of the individual as inextricably connected to their family history, the Multi-Bildungsroman presents itself as a refutation of the myth that lies at the core of American traditional literary canon, which usually sees family relationships as the obstacle that prevent the main character from achieving their goals.

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Daniele Giovannone
titolo rivista di riferimento: 
Il Bildungsroman negli Stati Uniti: una storia problematica
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