Stream of Consciousness

The Stream-of-Consciousness Technique

JAMES JOYCE (1882–1941) and VIRGINIA WOOLF (1882–1941) revolutionized the form and structure of the novel though the development of the stream-of-consciousness technique.


JOYCE's most famous novel Ulysses (1922) describes one day, 16 June 1904, in the lives of Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom and his wife Molly in Dublin. The novel is titled Ulysses as an allusion to the episodes of HOMER's epic Odyssey. Without any intervention by the narrator, the reader participates in the characters' spontaneous impressions, feelings and thoughts as they occur to them in a natural flow of association. The novel's sometimes crude realism does not eliminate any ugly details, random or obscene thoughts.

frseeeeeeeefronnnng train somewhere whistling the strength those engines have in them like big giants and the water rolling all over and out of them all sides like the end of Loves old sweeeetsonnnng [...]”
(James Joyce, Ulysses. 1922, last chapter: Molly Bloom's monologue)

Causal or temporal sequences of events have been replaced by order of association and spatial form.

JAMES JOYCE´s short stories also deal with moments of intense awareness, which he calls “epiphany” (Erscheinung). Gabriel Conroy experiences an epiphany after he has learned that his wife Gretta still grieves for a boy who died for her when she was young.

Generous tears filled Gabriel's eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman, but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself, which these dead had one time reared and lived in, was dissolving and dwindling.
(James Joyce, The Dead. (end of the story) from: Dubliners, 1914)

JAMES JOYCE wrote Dubliners (1914), a collection of short stories, and the novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1914/15), Ulysses (1922), and Finnegan's Wake (1939).


VIRGINIA WOOLF also eliminated both the causal or chronological order of the plot and the author's role as narrator or commentator. Instead she concentrated on what she called “moments of being”: moments in which the protagonist experiences an exceptional clearness and intensity of perception and awareness.

Look within and life, it seems, is very far from being 'like this'. Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions – trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms (…).
(Virginia Woolf, Modern Fiction. 1925)

In the novel Mrs Dalloway, the recollections of important moments in Clarissa Dalloway's life are enclosed in one day. Contrast and association link Mrs Dalloway's line of thought is linked with those of minor characters, Lucrezia Warren Smith and Peter Walsh. Thus these lines appear to take place simultaneously. Septimus Warren Smith's suicide is the point where two lines meet.

VIRGINIA WOOLF wrote the following novels:

  • The Voyage Out (1915)
  • Night and Day (1919)
  • Jacob's Room (1922)
  • Mrs Dalloway (1922)
  • To the Lighthouse (1927)
  • Orlando: A Biography (1928)
  • The Waves (1931)
  • The Years (1937)
  • Between the Acts (1941)

Stand: 2010
Dieser Text befindet sich in redaktioneller Bearbeitung.

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