Stream of Consciousness Essay

2402 WordsDec 9, 201210 Pages
Psychologist William James coined the term "stream of consciousness" to describe the complex mental flux of thoughts that characterize human consciousness. Some modernist writers of the early twentieth-century attempted to recreate this flow of thought in their narratives, and, thus, emerged the stream of consciousness novel. These writers, unlike William James, were not interested in a psychological decoding and cataloging of the human mental processes, which would result in writing almost impenetrable and impossible to read, but rather they meant to capture the general effect of viewing the external world from within the character’s psyche. Stream of consciousness writers of the modern age viewed the character as a psychological battlefield. They believed that one could best understand a person or a character by searching within his or her mind, where he or she exists in the truest sense. These writers recognized that there was another significant dimension of human beings, the unobservable subconscious, that traditional authors neglected to use when creating character personalities. Traditionally, characters developed personality from what they said or did, what other characters said about them, and what the omniscient author chose to add. Giving a voice to the unspoken, reflective thoughts, imaginations, conceptions, and sensory feelings of the human psyche, as the modernist "stream of consciousness" writers did, provided the potential for more accurate, comprehensive, and in-depth character development than had existed in the traditional approach. In the traditional novel a more obviously present, omniscient author describes the characters and events. In a stream-of-consciousness narrative the author is virtually nonexistent, inserting no explanatory, interpretative, or evaluative commentary. The author is like an invisible God that creates
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