(The following is a brief review posted today at Amazon of Robert Humphrey’s Stream of Consciousness in the Modern Novel.)
We begin with Joyce, move on to Woolf, and culminate with Faulkner noting along the way other practitioners and experimenters. We then hitch up our rudimentary understanding and attempt a little of this obscure revelation of the inner life, and maybe are able to carpenter together a few words, “picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen.”
Sometime later, perhaps if we are very lucky, we come upon Humphrey’s book Stream of
Consciousness in the Modern Novel and rise to a higher level of awareness. Humphrey looked at all the practitioners of this technique, compared their methods, analyzed their approaches, and consolidated most of the exegesis of other critics into a comprehensive chapbook of all the devices employed to achieve expositions of inner life presented to us in the writing of the masters of this literature. Humphrey gives us acute distinctions that illuminate much of the obscurity inherent in stream of consciousness methods beginning with what is and what is not stream of consciousness writing, and moving on to show the subtle character of direct and indirect interior monologue, free association, time and space montage, all illustrated with excerpts from the minds of Leopold, Clarissa, Benjy and others struggling through the incoherence and discontinuity of their thought to reveal truths that ultimately can be understood by readers.
Much as the early mariners with their Bowditch and maps of the unknown were able to cross oceans and circumnavigate the globe, we now can be confident that with this pilot’s guide in hand we can set sail again for the deeper waters we were not able to navigate when we first set out into the stream of consciousness.