In psychology and philosophy stream of consciousness, introduced by William James, is the set of constantly changing inner thoughts and sensations which an individual has while conscious.
In literary criticism, stream of consciousness denotes a literary technique which seeks to describe an individual's point of view by giving the written equivalent of the character's thought processes. Stream-of-consciousness writing is strongly associated with the modernist movement.
A few of the most famous works to employ the technique are James Joyce's Ulysses (in particular Molly Bloom's soliloquy), Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, and Jack Kerouac's On the Road. The technique has also been parodied, notably by David Lodge in the final chapter of The British Museum Is Falling Down. Stream-of-consciousness writing is characterised by associative leaps that can make the prose difficult to follow. Typically, writers employ very long sentences which move from one thought to another. Sometimes, writers avoid punctuation altogether in order to prevent artificial breaks in the "stream."
With its rapid, unconnected association of objects, geometrical shapes and numerology Sir Thomas Browne's Discourse The Garden of Cyrus (1658) may, upon examination of it's text, be considered one of the very earliest examples of stream-of-consciousness writing.
Contemporary singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette is also well-known for her employment of the stream-of-consciousness technique, in songs like All I Really Want, The Couch, and I Was Hoping. The album Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie signifies this method of writing. Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit is also done in a stream-of-conviousness style.