Bildungsroman (from the German: "Bildung," formation; "roman," novel) – A novel that tells the story of its protagonist's growth from youth to adulthood, innocence to experience, dreams to reality, home to society, &c.
Most literary historians cite Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship (1796) as the earliest example of this kind of novel. Since then it has been one of the most widely used novelistic plots. Many readers think of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Red Badge of Courage and Sister Carrie as examples of the type, but I read them more as anti-Bildungsromans, ironic revisions of the genre. (See IRONY.)