The Hours

The Hours as Post-Modern Bildungsroman College

Franco Moretti posits in The Way of the World: The Bildungsroman in European Culture that “Even those novels that clearly are not Bildungsroman or novels of formation are perceived by us against this conceptual horizon; so we speak of a ‘failed initiation’ or of a ‘problematic formation’” (Moretti 561). While not a bildungsroman in the sense that it follows the trajectory of a youth’s maturation, Michael Cunningham’s The Hours presents Clarissa Vaughn as its own symbolic hero. She must navigate a community in crisis and come to terms with understanding how her sexuality has influenced her life’s choices, and consequently, the formation of her identity. The Hours inverts common conceptions of the bildungsroman’s structure: instead of emphasizing a young person coming to terms with sexuality through maturation, this narrative divulges the innermost retrospection and “what-if?” contemplation of an older Clarissa who questions and, in some ways, problematizes her identity by wondering what her life would have been like if her sexual and romantic relationships had played out differently.

Breaking free from the confines of heteronormativity, this post-modern novel explores homosexuality through the engagement of a diverse array of...

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