Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Amy Billone

Committee Members

Nancy Henry, Urmila Seshagiri, Art Smith, Rosalind Hackett


This project combines three subgenres of the novel—children’s literature, the Bildungsroman, and the Künstlerroman—under a new comprehensive category I term “literatures of maturation,” or texts that share a concern with the inner and outer formation of the individual, with growing up, and with childhood. By reading British literatures of maturation from both the Victorian and modern eras (that is, within the time frame of the Golden Age of children’s literature), I reveal that, creativity disrupts literary plots of growth and development, and that social integration and artistic maturation battle for dominance in the child’s journey to adulthood, resulting in a narrative and in a developmental outcome that reflects the changing historical plot of childhood itself. When the recognition of adolescence as a developmental stage interrupts the linear historical plot of maturation at the beginning of the twentieth century, so too does creativity’s disruption of fictional plots of maturation increase, causing a shift from the social integration of the Bildungsroman to the artistic triumph of the Künstlerroman.

This study is organized by gender and time because these two contexts greatly affect patterns of maturation. The four major chapters of Innocent Artists read a Bildungsroman or a Künstlerroman and a work of children’s literature that fall between, or right outside of the dates 1850-1920. Each combined reading shows how the necessity of social maturation suppresses the child’s creativity or how the child flees the social in pursuit of artistic maturation. Addressing the centrality of the creative child and the process of growing up in literatures of maturation reveals how changing historical plots of childhood reorganize literary genres and how the creative child’s liberation from narratives of social integration and from adulthood itself is crucial for the formation of the Künstlerroman.

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