Stream of consciousness is a modern narrative technique that is inspired by the Psychological Principle (1890) of the pragmatic psychologist and philosopher William James (1842-1910).
What is the principle of stream of consciousness technique in literature?
Mr William James said that human consciousness flowed like a river which constantly intertwine thoughts, feelings and associations illogically. Consciousness novel was born with important contributions from the intuition of Henri Bergson and the psychology and psychoanalysis theories of W. James and S. Freud. They consider the stream of consciousness as an extreme case of inner monologue. Therefore, it quickly become a literary creative trend in the twentieth century. That’s because of its ability to penetrate deeply into the inner life, subconsciousness and unconsciousness of a human. Representing this writing trend in world literature must include James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Marcel Proust, William Faulkner.
How to apply the stream of consciousness technique in literature?
The nineteenth-century witnessed the critical realism fiction, especially Balzac’s series of Tales of Life. It seems that the novel has reached its peak. With its outward-looking structure, critically realistic fiction reaches an exemplary storytelling model. In that spirit, its author undertakes the mission of being the “faithful secretary” of the socially objective era. From there, the author becomes the “all-knowing”. He controls all the functioning of the novel structure.
However, with romanticism, the writer’s social outlook has changed. So it leads to a change in artistic conception, and thereby re-defining the structure of the novel. Romantic writers do not denounce contemporary society by the way that real writers criticize. They see society with pessimistic and skeptical eyes. From there they turned their backs on the society, searching for the artistic beauty in the past, inner people and the writer’s personal ego. Many writers even give up the Western bourgeois society to come to the fantasy world. Their subjective ego replaces the reality of social life. Since then the model “inward structure” of the novel appeared . The writer no longer only expresses his “know-it-all” knowledge for objective reality, but sometimes considered the flow of consciousness of human destiny seriously.
We can see that, along with romanticism, the deep inward exploration of the individual ego has opened up a new land of the novel. Of course the introverted structure of the novel didn’t replace the extroverted structure. But it just added a new and very important realization of human life: the inner life and spiritual life. Thus, the extroverted structure and the introverted structure coexist in the development history of the novel.
In conclusion, it’s clear to see the characteristics of each type of structure, but we shouldn’t consider each of them as any composing method.
Famous writers who often use the technique of stream of consciousness.
The stream of consciousness was developed in the early years of the 20th century. Some famous writer of this periods are Joris-Karl Huysmans, Édouard Dujardin, William James, George Meredith, Joseph Conrad, Robert Louis Stevenson.
In major works of consciousness literature, the writers expressed their interest in the subjective. Moreover, the mystery in human psychology becomes critical. There was the disruption of the traditional narrative structure, the disturbance of the temporal dimensions and sometimes the nature of formal experimentation. The novel “Ulysses” has reached the same artistic possibilities of this trend. James Joyce’s writings have markedly influenced European and American literature. And majority of great writers went through a period of fascination with the stream of consciousness. They were Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Aldous Huxley, Graham Greene, Günter Grass, Marguerite Duras.
European and American literature after World War II witnessed the blossoming of the flow of consciousness to different degrees. Some famous writer of this periods were Michel Butor, Nathalie SarrauteAnthony Powell, Paul Johnson, Uwe Johnson, Alfred AnderschCP Snow, Angus Wilson, François Mauriac, Wolfgang Koeppen
In addition, Asia also witnessed the successful experimentation of the literary works of consciousness in the works. They are Lo Tan with the main story AQ, Kawabata Yasunari with Sleeping Beauty, or Mishima Yukio with Kim Tu Tu. They are some minor examples of the stream of consciousness theory.
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