Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Looking Back and Thinking Forward: Bildungsroman, Boarding Schools and National Identity in Dickens’ David Copperfield and Arguedas’ Los ríos profundos Public Deposited

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  • In literature and society, boarding schools provide a key venue for the education of a country’s youth in terms of both general academic lessons but also the social structure and societal norms of the countries in which the young people reside. Such institutions’ purpose and goals thus often align with the central aims of the state: the creation, strengthening or wider dispersion of national identity as well as civic and social norms. In short, the boarding school provides a setting conducive to the proliferation of a unified national consciousness as well as other lessons relating to class, gender and society within a particular country’s social context. Bildungsromane are novels that demonstrate formation of a young person’s worldview. When set in boarding schools, these stories clearly explicate the structures, values, goals and, occasionally, the troubles of the broader country. In Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield and José María Arguedas’ Los ríos profundos, the young, male protagonists gain exposure to their respective country’s organizations and values only to subvert these same paradigms. While both books are examples of Bildungsromane, in the process of subverting the ideals of national identity and social structure they also complicate the central tenets of the genre as well. The protagonists’ moral and intellectual developments lead them to make rational yet individualistic decisions that serve to separate them from rather than uniting them with the majority of their respective compatriots. Through the application of literary and critical theory to the selected texts, this paper will examine how questions of class, politics, culture and even gender confound and ultimately undermine the accepted ideas of the unified Bildung and, ultimately, the nation.

Date Issued
  • 2011
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Last Modified
  • 2021-07-12
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