James Joyce And The Stream Of Consciousness Technique

Probably for Joyce that was not a technique but just a phenomenon which he couldn’t dent for a phrase’s sake. Joyce had always been fascinated by the power of the word to confer an idea. Still, what struck him most was the way people misused words in a speech. In many letters to his publishers Joyce would make it clear that in his works what mattered most was fidelity to what had been seen and heard. Observed phenomena had to be conferred faithfully, anything could have been sacrificed but not the reality as perceived by the artist.

When I’m waiting for the bus, making the queue in the bank or just having a walk in the park I feel my thoughts’ flow. They just don’t follow any pattern. I think about the weather, about dogs, God, making love in a church, sea, peeing, fight club and many, many other things not connected at all with each other. If you come and ask me about my thoughts my answer will be: “I m not thinking about anything”. Sometimes I can’t even tell myself what I was thinking before I started on my feet to answer the phone that rang suddenly. This long illogical stream of thoughts is what is called stream of consciousness.

How do you confer such a state in a written text? Here the stream of consciousness technique comes into play. Take out points, commas, periods, capital letters and grammar. Get rid of logic too. Now write. When the phone rings or the character falls asleep use points, it means that now on the character is either fully conscious and resumes his rational thinking or that he is sleeping and not thinking at all. In plain language, this is the stream of consciousness technique. Joyce employs it in his masterpiece and revolutionary work Ulysses altogether with his hero: the anti-hero. There is a natural tendency among us humans to create heros from ordinary people around us. For the firm belief in such heroes and in their heroic nature, we often fail to see the wood for the trees. All men experience the stream of consciousness phenomenon.

You kill a man by taking away his weaknesses. Homer killed Ulysses. Joyce brought him back to life.


  1. Thank you, interesting post.
    It was quite helpful.

  2. Very nice. Loved the conclusion 🙂

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