Beyond Literary Landscapes – Stream-of-Consciousness

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


This week’s column considers stream-of-consciousness as a literary technique or device.

Stream-of-consciousness can be defined as a “narrative technique in nondramatic fiction intended to render the flow of myriad impressions—visual, auditory, physical, associative, and subliminal.”

In an attempt to write what is occurring in the mind, stream-of-consciousness often includes “incoherent thought, ungrammatical constructions, and free association of ideas, images, and words at the pre-speech level.”

At times, this literary device is known as “interior monologue.”  Note that this is different from a “dramatic monologue,” as it addresses the character themselves, as opposed to an audience.

Examples of authors who experimented in stream-of-consciousness include Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, and James Joyce.

Additional authors include Marcel Proust, T.S.  Eliot, Henry James, and Samuel Beckett.


Some examples of stream-of-consciousness in literature include To the Lighthouse and Mrs.  Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, and Ulysses and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.


These novels are set throughout Great Britain, as well the southern United States.


These works take place during the 20th century.


Stream-of-consciousness, while fascinating, can be a difficult read.  These works may interest AU students who would like to challenge themselves, or step out of their comfort zones.  They may also attract PSYCH students who would like to learn more about the human mind.  In addition, these novels could be of interest for students who would like to know more about the development of early 20-century literature.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to stream-of-consciousness are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in learning more about this topic may enroll in ENGL 393: The Early Twentieth-Century Novel, a senior-level, three-credit course, which “focuses on the first four decades of the twentieth-century British novel, its history and development, its rich variety of forms and techniques, and the ideas and events that influenced it.”  (Students should note that this course requires ENGL 211: Prose Forms and ENGL 212: Poetry and Plays as prerequisites..)  Several of the above-mentioned novels are included in this current course revision.  Happy reading!