The German word Bildungsroman means "a novel of formation": that is, a novel of someone's growth from childhood to maturity.

A kind of subset of the Bildungsroman is the Kunstlerroman, the story of an artist's growth to maturity. Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a famous example.

It's easy to find examples that don't exactly fit the mold, but still involve elements of the Bildungsroman. About a third of Jane Eyre, for instance, is concerned with her childhood.

From the Guide to Literary Terms by Jack Lynch.
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Note: This guide is still in the early stages of development.
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