Cross-Cultural Coming-of-Age Narratives - ENGL6760

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2021 to 2022
Autumn Term 6 30 (15) Stella Bolaki checkmark-circle


If the Bildungsroman has been criticised for being outmoded and conservative, how do contemporary writers interrogate and expand its scope and importance? Are coming-of-age narratives merely private stories or can they be read in ways which highlight their social functions, and what kind of theoretical, aesthetic and cultural perspectives can we apply to scrutinise these functions? This module will bring together a range of texts and films from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries that can be read within and against the literary tradition of the Bildungsroman or the coming-of-age narrative. Drawing on material from the US, the Caribbean, Asia and Europe, we will spend time analysing the representation of the coming-of-age experience in terms of content and form and assess the ideological functions of the Bildungsroman in a cross-cultural context. Particular attention will be given to questions of racial and ethnic identity, migration, colonialism, memory, trauma, belonging and sexuality. We will also explore the connection of the Bildungsroman with genres such as autobiography, family memoir, young adult fiction, graphic novel, and film. Writers studied in this module include Richard Wright, Jamaica Kincaid, Sandra Cisneros, Sherman Alexie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Marjane Satrapi, and we will watch films including My Beautiful Laundrette and Bend it Like Beckham.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 30 hours
Total private study hours: 270 hours
Total module study hours: 300 hours

Method of assessment

100% Coursework:
Two essays of 3000 words each (45% for each essay), with the remaining 10% coming from a seminar performance mark.

Indicative reading

Yezierska, Anzia, (1925) Bread Givers
Wright, Richard, (1945) Black Boy
Kincaid, Jamaica, (1990) Lucy
Kingston, Maxine Hong, (1976) The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts
Cisneros, Sandra, (1984) The House on Mango Street
Alexie, Sherman, (2007) The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Lahiri, Jhumpa, (2003) The Namesake
Satrapi, Marjane, (2000) Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and the Story of a Return
Kassabova, Kapka, (2008) Street without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria

Film Screenings:

Stephen Frears, (1985) My Beautiful Laundrette
Gurinder Chadha, (2002) Bend it Like Beckham

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 critically evaluate a variety of coming-of-age narratives from the US, Caribbean, Asia, and Europe, including genres such as autobiography, short story sequence, family memoir, young adult fiction, graphic novel, and film;
2 demonstrate a systematic understanding of the different literary traditions and movements out of which the texts arise, and how these in turn might be articulated within, and interrogative of, the Bildungsroman tradition;
3 apply accurately a range of established theoretical, aesthetic, and cultural perspectives to the study of twentieth- and twenty-first century coming-of-age narratives;
4 develop sophisticated analytical skills as well as historically situated approaches to key concepts in the field such as race/ethnicity, immigration, diaspora, memory, trauma, space, gender, colonialism, and sexuality over the last century;
5 consolidate and extend their capacity to structure nuanced arguments centred on the close relationship between aesthetics and politics in literature.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 deploy sophisticated close reading techniques to a range of literary texts and, to a lesser extent, films, to make productive and complex comparisons between them;
2 demonstrate further development of the skills necessary for participating in group discussions and giving oral presentations, including communicating ideas to specialist and non-specialist audiences;
3 demonstrate an increased capacity for self-directed research and the ability to discuss, evaluate and creatively deploy secondary critical and theoretical perspectives making use of appropriate scholarly sources;
4 demonstrate an ability to frame and identify appropriate research questions and to construct original, articulate and well-substantiated arguments).


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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