The year 1910 was a dividing line in the history of the novel. The definition “modernism” refers to those novelists who experimented new forms of expression which tried to explore mental processes. This technique was called Stream of Consciousness.
Apart from the new studies by Freud and Bergson, the term was coined by the American psychologist William James (Henry’s brother) who in his Principles of Psychology described human consciousness like a river or a stream and spoke of the endless flux of the inner life so that reality cannot be objectively given but is subjectively perceived through consciousness.
Twentieth century writers realized it was impossible to reproduce the complexity of human mind using traditional techniques so they adopted the Interior Monologue to represent in a novel the unspoken activity of the mind.
The two terms are often confused but while the stream of consciousness refers to the psychic phenomenon, the interior monologue is the verbal expression of the phenomenon which disregards syntax, punctuation, and chronological order.
Examples of novels based on these ideas were: Proust in France “Remembrance of things past” which does not describe what the hero’s life has been but what he remembers of it. The idea conveyed is that the past is contained in the present and is part of it.
Dostoevsky in Russia “Letters from the underworld” Henry James “America” Conrad, V. Woolf but above all J. Joyce in Britain