The Comfort of Civilization, Chapter I Intro

From Franco Moretti’s The Way of the World: The Bildungsroman in European Culture, Chapter I: “The Comfort of Civilization.”


Modern capitalist society is characterized by the contradictory impulses of individuality and normality. In order for modern capitalist society to maintain order based on proper socialization, these impulses must be balanced through making the aspects of normality internalized and seem legitimately organic to the individual. Instead of fearful subjects, the citizens of modern capitalist society should feel the values of their society are their own. The bildungsroman is the literary genre best dealing with this process, or more technically put, “The bildungsroman as the synthesis that nullifies the previous opposition Entwicklungsroman (novel of ‘development,’ of the subjective unfolding of an individuality) and Erziehungsroman (novel of ‘education,’ of an objective process, observed from the standpoint of the educator)” (17). So in other words, the bildungsroman is the literary genre that explores and compromises in the tension between impulses towards individuality and normality.

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