This article examines Samuel R. Delany’s The Mad Man for the way it revises the ideological tenants of the classical bildungsroman through the figure of the racialized homeless. In particular, it argues that the novel takes up the narrative conventions of the classic bildungsroman in order to unthink the liberal constraints of freedom and belonging established by possessive individualism. By troubling the aesthetic ideas of self-ownership within the classic bildungsroman, the novel not only “turns out” possessive individualism but generates an alternative account of freedom and belonging that reckons with the racialized and gendered history of self-ownership and property.


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