This essay reconsiders the notion of novelistic bildung as more than a protagonist's social maturation. Reading Frances Burney's Evelina as a developmental account of the young heroine's self-conscious faculties, it examines how novels rely on the work of conscious memory, and on temporal concepts of subjectivity, to account for human agency. Burney's novel begins with Evelina's emotional relationship to her surroundings; Volume I focuses predominantly on Evelina's aesthetic reactions to the unfamiliar environment of London, delineating a paradigm of self-consciousness as embodied awareness. However, these moments of self-consciousness, akin to feelings of shame and mortification, prove fleeting and problematic in relationship to Evelina's actions. It is only when Evelina reflects upon her experience with objects and others in time that she finally attains agency and independence of action. As Evelina's thinking becomes less reactive and automatic, she gains an ability to survive and overcome situations that pose unremitting threats to her female virtue.


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pp. 171-196
Launched on MUSE
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