Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Academic Program Adviser
My thesis frames Walker Percy's The Moviegoer (1961) as a novel that pits the fading tradition of the Bildungsroman, aligned with what its protagonist calls the "vertical" throughout the text, against the supposed alternative of "the search", aligned with horizontal wandering. As the vast changes of modernity, namely technology and industrialization, transformed Western society throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century, many novelists began to see the Bildungsideal as incompatible with their new world. Walker Percy's novel begins with a similar conclusion, and I track how The Moviegoer engages with the Bildungsideal and its supposed failure to sustain itself into the twentieth century. Throughout this argument, I employ the work of Franco Moretti and Jed Esty to understand the precise issues causing the Bildungsideal's supposed incompatibility with modernity. I also use the works of Walter Benjamin and Charles Baudelaire, and their elaboration on the figure of the flâneur, to better understand Binx Bolling and his horizontal "search.” As becomes clear throughout the novel, Binx Bolling's horizontal "search" holds its own problems for him. I conclude that this tension between the "vertical" and the "horizontal" ultimately resolves through a dialectical synthesis, which Percy gestures to in the final pages of the novel.
Phillips, Sean P., "Bildung and Flânerie: Aesthetics, Genre, and Modes of Development in The Moviegoer" (2022). CUNY Academic Works.