Stream of Consciousness Novel

Decent Essays
The Development of the ‘Stream-of-Consciousness’ Technique in Modernist English Fiction (with Special Reference to the Contributions of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf)
Arpan Adhikary

The term ‘stream of consciousness’ as applied in literary criticism to designate a particular mode of prose narrative was first coined by philosopher William James in his book Principles of Psychology (1890) to describe the uninterrupted flow of perceptions, memories and thoughts in active human psyche. As a literary term, however, it denotes a certain narrative technique used in novels in which the narrator records in minute but somewhat abstract way whatever passes through his or her conscious mind. The socalled ‘stream of consciousness’ in a work of
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The style is highly allusive and Joyce deliberately confuses the narrative by making a pastiche of the styles of several genres together while presenting the flows of the continuous thoughts of the principal characters. Here for the first time Joyce also employed the ‘interior monologue’ which is deemed to be the purest form of the ‘stream-of-consciousness’ mode. In Joyce’s third and last novel Finnegans Wake (1939) the complexity of the ‘stream-of-consciousness’ technique reaches its heights necessitating the text’s being one of the least read ones in any language. In this novel Joyce used around forty languages other than English and presented an awkwardly extensive range of literary, mythical, political and historical allusions while narrating the one-night dream sequence of the protagonist, a Dublin tavern-keeper named Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker. Apart from Joyce, Virginia Woolf also made remarkable contribution to the development of the ‘stream-of-consciousness’ mode in the modernist English fiction. In Mrs. Dalloway (1925) Woolf presents the diverse mental recourses of Clarissa Dalloway within the span of one single day, and in the interior monologue of Mrs. Dalloway the narrative breaks with the realistic mode in order to suit the inner reality of the narrator’s psyche which is different from the external reality by which she is surrounded. Similar intellectual cogency and finer technical
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