Künstlerroman: German for “novel of the artist,” a novel that examines the development of an artist, typically from childhood to a point of maturity where the protagonist realizes his or her artistic potential and mission; a type of bildungsroman, the more general novel of formation. The Künstlerroman typically depicts the struggles of a sensitive protagonist to overcome bourgeois values and other obstacles.
EXAMPLES: Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield (1868), James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), Zelda Fitzgerald’s autobiographical novel Save Me the Waltz (1932), Brian Moore’s An Answer from Limbo (1962), Ben Okri’s The Landscapes Within (1981), Shelley Jackson’s hypertext work My Body: A Wunderkammer (1997), Eileen Myles’s Inferno: A Poet’s Novel (2010). Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh (1857), a novel-length epic lyric written in blank verse, has been called the first female Künstlerroman.
Maxine Hong Kingston’s Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book (1987), the story of a fifth-generation Chinese-American, redefines the traditional Künstlerroman, which emphasizes the artist’s estrangement from society, by focusing on the protagonist’s efforts to establish his place as an artist within the mainstream of American society.