Reading The Adventures of Augie March in the context of its composition in Marshall Plan–era Paris, this essay argues that Saul Bellow’s novel operates analogously to American public diplomacy of the early Cold War, especially in its reinvention of the Bildungsroman genre. Architects of the Marshall Plan argued against national consolidation and for the international circulation of discourse and capital, a project contrary to established European ideas of national culture and Bildung. Similarly, Augie March should be read as a Bildungsroman employing picaresque methods to undermine the genre’s traditional concerns. By sending its protagonist on a long series of abortive apprenticeships in European programs of cultivation, the novel posits a notion of American Bildung as not just one among many paths of development, but rather a pragmatic resistance to them all—exactly the notion promoted by the official rhetoric of the “Pax Americana.”


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pp. 149-174
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