Introduction to Bildungsroman in Geography


The genre of Bildungsroman, or “coming of age” literature, is a popular theme in the world of literature. However, its relevance and application is often overlooked in the realm of geography. Bildungsroman is primarily associated with novels, but the underlying principles and themes can be used to enhance our understanding of geography and the world around us. In this article, we will explore the concept of Bildungsroman and its application in the field of geography.

Bildungsroman, which translates to “novel of education,” originated in Germany in the 18th century. It is a literary genre that focuses on the psychological, moral, and intellectual development of a character, usually from childhood to adulthood. The protagonist goes through various experiences and challenges, leading to a realization about themselves and the world they live in. This genre typically ends with the character attaining a greater sense of self-awareness and understanding of their place in the world.

Now, one may wonder how this genre is relevant to the field of geography. After all, geography is the study of physical features and the environment, not fictional characters. However, at its core, Bildungsroman is about growth and transformation, two concepts that are closely related to geography.

Geography is not just about memorizing maps and locations; it is about understanding the world around us and how it has influenced human civilizations. Just like the protagonist in a Bildungsroman, geographers seek to understand the world and its complexity, leading to a constant learning and evolving process. This journey of self-discovery and understanding of the world is where Bildungsroman fits in.

In geography, the protagonist is not a fictional character, but the geographer themselves. As they go through their careers, they encounter various challenges and experiences, which shape their perspective and understanding of the world. Some geographers may specialize in physical geography, studying natural phenomena such as climate change and its impact on human societies. Others may focus on human geography, examining how societies interact with their environment and how it shapes cultural and economic systems.

Regardless of their specialization, all geographers go through a process of growth and transformation. For example, a geographer studying a developing country may initially have a biased view, influenced by stereotypes and media portrayals. However, as they delve deeper into their research and engage with the local community, they may realize the complexity and uniqueness of the culture and environment. This realization prompts a shift in their perspective, leading to a better understanding and appreciation of the world.

Even in the context of a specific research project, Bildungsroman can be applied. As geographers conduct their research, they collect data and develop theories. However, the data may challenge their initial assumptions, leading to a reassessment and reformulation of their theories. This process can be seen as a journey of growth and development, similar to that of a protagonist in a Bildungsroman novel.

To further understand the application of Bildungsroman in geography, let us look at a practical example. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people live in peace and prosperity. As geographers, we can approach this goal with a Bildungsroman mindset. By studying the intricacies of each goal and how they relate to one another, we can gain a deeper understanding of the complexities and interconnectedness of global challenges. This understanding can then inform our work and solutions, leading to a more holistic approach towards achieving the SDGs.

In conclusion, the Bildungsroman genre may seem like an unlikely fit for geography, but upon closer examination, its principles and themes closely align with the field. Just as the protagonist in a novel goes through a journey of growth and self-realization, geographers also embark on a journey of understanding and discovery throughout their careers. By recognizing and applying the principles of Bildungsroman, geographers can enhance their understanding of the world and contribute to creating a more sustainable and equitable future.