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The stream of consciousness vs today

By: Onkar Sharma

The stream of consciousness, I’m sure, is not an unknown term to my literary pals. I am taking up this term for discussion today. Even though discussing literary terms on open platforms such as Literary Yard is uncommon, I feel attracted to this term so much so that I can’t resist talking about it. The intriguing impact it has on me can’t be put into words. From my college days, I was eager to know more about authors who went after this and produced great literary works.

As you know, the Stream of Consciousness is a narrative style that emerged fast at the dawn of the 20th century. From the beginning of my introduction to this term, I’ve sought to know its practicability in the day-to-day routine. With that being said, it is not about thinking of those difficult-to-comprehend scenes in James Joyce’s and Virginia Woolf’s novels. It is about delving into the psyche, understanding the sensitivity of thoughts and experiencing their random overflow. The term is also known as  ‘Interior monologue‘, which can be simply described as the act of talking to yourself.

stream of consciousness

In simplified words, the stream of consciousness can best be described as a trail of random thoughts that fly hysterically from this place to that, from gardens of love to the deserts of wickedness, from the caverns of goofiness to the pleasures of heaven. It is a technique which behaves like a wayward kite in the sky. To illustrate through my scrambled thought process that usually captures my psyche when I commute to the office, I would say that starting with a thought of coffee to ending up with thoughts of travelling to exotic lands is something that often happens.

Yet, more than confusing the literary term drove me to explore several books written in this genre. I loved to read those books. I ploughed through ‘Ulysses’, ‘Sound and Fury’ by William Faulkner and many others. I understood little but I liked the pattern of thoughts jumbled into literary pieces. Still, my fascination is caught around the stream of consciousness. My fascination caught wings when I read Joyce’s ‘The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man’. I feel ineffable to put the magic of this term in words.

In the modern context, the term has evolved a lot. Hollywood’s and Bollywood’s influence on fiction, classified as the stream of consciousness, can be clearly seen. A number of movies are key in immortalizing stories on the big screen in which the characters are caught in severe psychological patterns.

In essence, the stream of consciousness or interior monologue has moved up the ladder. But the genre is going out of fashion. The reason why this genre is less perceived is because modern publishers are less convinced of the commercial aspect. The complex structure of the narratives often challenges average readers who believe in quick, racy books and from whom the most money comes.


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