This essay analyzes Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions and argues that this novel appropriates and resignifies the bildungsroman, thus demonstrating that this genre cannot provide a symbolic resolution for the "nervous condition" of the colonized subject. To do so, I integrate a worldsystemic approach with a formalist analysis of genre. Starting from the premise that the modern world-system has been constituted by capitalist modernization and colonial expansion, I read Dangarembga's novel as a localized literary response to these two world-historical forces and analyze the entanglements between formal choices and socioeconomic transformations, as well as their impact on the characters' psyche. By appropriating the realist bildungsroman from a peripheral perspective, Nervous Conditions frames the tense relations between a self-reflecting individuality and her social totality. In so doing, Dangarembga rejects the ideological premises of a genre tied to European bourgeois subjectivity and simultaneously reactivates realism and mimesis as dynamic and flexible modes of representation.