Home Discussion Forum How does the literary technique "stream of consciousness" work?

How does the literary technique "stream of consciousness" work?

Can anyone explain it to me, and then give me an example? Thanks a lot!


  1. In literary criticism, stream of consciousness is a narrative mode that seeks to portray an individual’s point of view by giving the written equivalent of the character’s thought processes, either in a loose interior monologue, or in connection to his or her actions.
    Stream-of-consciousness writing is usually regarded as a special form of interior monologue and is characterized by associative leaps in syntax and punctuation that can make the prose difficult to follow. Stream of consciousness and interior monologue are distinguished from dramatic monologue, where the speaker is addressing an audience or a third person, and is used chiefly in poetry or drama. In stream of consciousness, the speaker’s thought processes are more often depicted as overheard in the mind (or addressed to oneself); it is primarily a fictional device. The term was introduced to the field of literary studies from that of psychology, where it was coined by philosopher and psychologist William James.
    Several notable works employing stream of consciousness are:
    Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground (1864)
    Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (1873-77)
    Édouard Dujardin’s Les Lauriers sont coupés (1888)
    Knut Hamsun’s Hunger (1890) and Mysteries (1892)
    Marcel Proust In Search of Lost Time, (or À la recherche du temps perdu ) 1913 – 1927
    Arthur Schnitzler’s Lieutenant Gustl (1900), ‘Fräulein Else (1924)
    T. S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1915)
    Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage (1915-28)
    James Joyce’s
    Eveline (1914)
    A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)
    Ulysses (1922)
    Finnegans Wake (1939)
    Italo Svevo’s La coscienza di Zeno (1923)
    Virginia Woolf’s
    Mrs. Dalloway (1925)
    To the Lighthouse (1927)
    The Waves (1931)
    Hugh MacDiarmid’s A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle (1926)
    Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf (1927)
    William Faulkner’s
    The Sound and the Fury (1929)
    As I Lay Dying (1930)
    Absalom, Absalom! (1936)
    Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song (1932)
    Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun (1939)
    J. D. Salinger’s
    Seymour: An Introduction (1963)
    William Styron’s Lie Down in Darkness (1951)
    Samuel Beckett’s ‘trilogy’ :
    Molloy (1951)
    Malone Dies (1951)
    The Unnamable (1953)
    Albert Camus’ The Fall (1956)
    Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners (1956)
    William Burroughs’s Naked Lunch (1959)
    Jack Kerouac’s
    On the Road
    Visions of Cody
    Jerzy Andrzejewski’s Gates to Paradise (1960)
    Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962)- particularly Chief Bromden’s thoughts during electroshock therapy.
    Julio Cortázar’s Rayuela (Hopscotch) (1963)
    Hubert Selby Jr.’s
    Last Exit to Brooklyn (1964)
    The Room (1971)
    Requiem for a Dream (1978)
    Albert Cohen’s Belle du Seigneur (1968)
    Giuseppe Berto’s Il male oscuro (1964)
    Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)
    OÄŸuz Atay’s Tutunamayanlar (The Disconnected) (1972)
    Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)
    Robert Anton Wilson & Robert Shea’s Illuminatus! (1975)
    Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren (1975)
    Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony(1977)
    Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun (1980—83)
    Pier Vittorio Tondelli’s
    Altri libertini (1980)
    Pao Pao (1982)
    Nadine Gordimer’s July’s People (1981)
    Bahram Bayzai’s Death of Yazdgerd (1982)
    Bret Easton Ellis’
    Less Than Zero (1985)
    The Rules of Attraction (1987)
    American Psycho (1991)
    The Informers (1994)
    Glamorama (1998)
    Lunar Park (2005)
    Alan Bennett’s A Cream Cracker Under The Settee, (1987)
    Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy (1992)
    Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting (1993)
    Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves (2000)
    Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated (2002)
    Will Christopher Baer’s Phineas Poe trilogy (2005))
    Kiss Me, Judas
    Hell’s Half Acre
    Penny Dreadful (parts)
    Clarice Lispector’s whole work. See:
    Near to the Wild Heart (1943)
    Family Ties (1960)
    The Apple in the Dark (1961)
    The Passion According to G.H. (1964)
    An Apprenticeship or The Book of Pleasures (1968)
    The Stream of Life (1970)
    The Hour of the Star (1977)
    Autran Dourado’s
    Voices of the Dead (1967)
    Pattern for a Tapestry (1970)
    Bells of Agony (1974)
    Hilda Hilst’s whole work.
    Wang Meng’s Voices of Spring
    Jack Feldstein’s stream-of-consciousness neon animations.
    Rabih Alameddine’s Koolaids: The Art of War (1998), an example of a postmodern application of Stream of Consciousness

  2. as I sit here answering your question I am also listening to my favorite online radio station, and I am hungry. So hungry am I that I am considering logging off and walking into the kitchen to find something to eat… but before I go, I would direct you to Hunter Thompson’s writings, such as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas… written in stream of consiousness under the effects of drugs and alcohol


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