Stream of Consciousness in Fiction

GENINT 711.420

Osher (50+). In this course, we discuss works of fiction that employ stream of consciousness, a method of narration that describes happenings in the flow of thoughts in the minds of the characters.


About this course:

As the psychological novel developed in the 20th century, some writers attempted to capture the total flow of their characters’ consciousness rather than limit themselves to their characters’ rational thoughts. To do this, writers incorporated a literary device called stream of consciousness to reveal a character’s inner thoughts, feelings, and the full range of his or her impressions—visual, auditory, physical, associative, and subliminal. To a reader, this literary device often made stream of consciousness fiction seem fragmented because it incorporated snatches of incoherent thought, ungrammatical constructions, free association of images, and words at the pre-speech level. But once accustomed, readers came to recognize the depths of a character’s emotionally moving and profound internal awareness. In this course, we read examples of well-known stream of consciousness narratives, among them “Benjy” from Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, “Molly Bloom” from James Joyce’s Ulysses, Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, and Jose Saramago’s Blindness.

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