Stream of consciousness' is a narrative technique in non dramatic fiction intended to render the flow of myriad impressions-visual, auditory, physical, associative, and subliminal-that impinge on the consciousness of an individual and form part of his awareness along with the trend of his rational thoughts." ( Burkdall , p. 24 )
This term was first used by the psychologist William James in The Principles of Psychology (1890). James was formulating a psychological theory where he had discovered that " memories, thoughts and feelings exist outside the primary consciousness appear to one, not as a chain, but as a stream , a flow ." (P.11)
In his introduction on the use of this narrative technique, Robert Hurley shows that It was first used, as a literary term, in the late 19th century. This term is " employed to evince subjective as well as objective reality. It reveals the character's feelings, thoughts, and actions, often following an associative rather than a logical sequence, without commentary by the author. Widely used in narrative fiction, the technique was perhaps brought to its highest point of development in early twentieth century novels where stream of consciousness plays an important role"
(Hurley, p.19 ) .
As far as the development of the English novel in the 20th century is concerned , John J. Richetti states that "some novelists attempted in their distinctive works to capture the total flow of their characters' consciousness, rather than limit themselves to rational thoughts. To represent the full richness, speed, and subtlety of the mind at work, the writer incorporates snatches of incoherent thought, ungrammatical constructions, and free association of ideas, images, and words at the pre- speech level .Amongst these works were ;William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury (1929) , Virginia Woolf's The waves (1931) , and James Joyce's Ulysses (1922) and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young man (1916)." ( Richetti, p. 36 ) . He also adds : " Novelists of the early and mid-20th century had contributed greatly to modern literature by abandoning traditional narrative style and pioneering the use of stream of consciousness. The British writer Dorothy Richardson is considered by some actually to be the pioneer in use of the device. Her novel Pilgrimage(1911-1938), a 12-volume sequence, is an intense analysis of the development of a sensitive young woman and her responses to the world around her." (p.41 ). With regard to this subject, Walter Allen explains in his essay in The English Novel in 1924 and After that :
the phrase Stream of consciousness was taken over- first , it seems , by May Sinclair, in 1918 reviewing Dorothy Richardson's novels- to denote the new method of rendering consciousness itself as it follows from moment to moment, a method used with varying degrees of intensity by Dorothy Richardson, Joyce and Virginia Woolf , though never by Lawrence. ( p. 345)