Journal article Open Access

'I ain't no homosexual, I am a . . . Barrysexual!': Queering the Bildungsroman in Bernardine Evaristo's Mr Loverman

Hinz, Miriam

Grounded in Europe’s imperial practices, the classical European Bildungsroman has been imbued with a fixed set of characteristics and normative implications to educate and ‘civilise’ its bourgeois readership and colonial subjects alike. Portraying the development of a young, white male, heterosexual protagonist who overcomes obstacles to finally integrate into society, the European Bildungsroman perpetuates a certain kind of subject-formation that has been instrumental in colonial education. Due to its embeddedness in colonial history, the genre of the Bildungsroman has been subject to frequent criticism as well as transformations, especially by female and postcolonial authors. An exceptional example for such a postcolonial subversion of the genre is Bernardine Evaristo’s novel Mr Loverman (2013), which traces Barry’s coming-out story at the age of seventy-four. Unlike a classical European Bildungsroman, the narrative unfolds the story of an ageing, black, non-heterosexual protagonist. Therefore, I argue that Evaristo queers the European Bildungsroman and its normative implications along the intersectional axes of race, age, and sexuality. Additionally, she employs several formal strategies such as multi-perspectivity, polyphony, non-linear temporalities, and intertextuality to destabilise dominant normative implications of the Bildungsroman, further queering the more conventional form of the genre, opening it up for cultural particularities and transcultural exchange.


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