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Writing Tool of the Twentieth Century: Stream of Consciousness

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Stream of Consciousness

Thoughts, emotions, and motives make up whom a person is. These are the same things that make up the characters in some of the most famous literary works. Stream of consciousness shows the thoughts, feelings, and ideas of a character through the character’s point of view. Stream of consciousness is a writing tool used most notably in the early twentieth century, during the rise of modernism. Another description for stream of consciousness is interior monologue. This interior monologue gives the reader a look into the thoughts that drives the character to their actions. William James explains the term in The Principles of Psychology, stating, “Consciousness, then, does not appear to itself chopped up in bits. Such words as ‘chain’ and ‘train’ do not describe it fitly as it presents itself in the first instant. It is nothing jointed: it flows. A ‘river’ or a ‘stream’ are the metaphors by which it is most naturally described” (233). Consciousness is not fragmented, but a constant flow of thoughts and ideas. Stream of consciousness is a twentieth century technique and is greatly exemplified by modernistic authors Virginia Woolf and T.S. Eliot.
Stream of Consciousness is a key piece in twentieth century literature, resembling the change that came during that time. The twentieth century was the rise of modernism, an era in which philosophy took the lead role. Josh Rahn points out in his article call Modernism, “At that same time, the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud had come into mainstream acceptance” (1). He goes on to say, “In broad terms, the period was marked by sudden and unexpected breaks with traditional ways of viewing and interacting with the world…Indeed, a central preoccupation of Modernis...

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... world, the great novelists of the early twentieth century surveyed the inner space of the human mind” (Rahn, 1). T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf were just two of the many writers in the early twentieth century to use stream of consciousness in their works.

Works Cited

Eliot, Thomas Stearns. Prufrock and Other Observations. From
Poems. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1920; Bartleby.com, 2011. Web. 18 Feb. 2014. www.bartleby.com/198/1.html.
James, William. The Principles of Psychology. 1890. New York: Dover
Publications, Inc., 1950
Rahn, Josh. "Modernism." Literature Periods & Movements. Jalic
Inc., 2011. Web. 19 Feb. 2014. .
Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse. England: Hogarth, 1927.
Project Gutenberg Australia. Col Choat, Sept. 2008. Web. 18 Feb. 2014. .
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