‘Stream of consciousness’ is a common term in literary criticism, and often used to describe the distinctive style employed by some of the most famous writers of the twentieth century. But what is ‘stream of consciousness’? Why a ‘stream’? A few words of introduction may help to clarify this common, and widely misunderstood, literary term.
In fact, ‘stream of consciousness’ began life not as a literary term at all, but – perhaps unsurprisingly – a psychological one.