In what sense are literary techniques historically contingent? This essay considers how William Faulkner’s mode of stream of consciousness developed from As I Lay Dying (1930) to The Town (1957). It questions how the same formal presentation of stream of consciousness achieves opposed aesthetic effects: across three decades, character difference becomes sameness, individuality turns to collectivity, and as midcentury readers lamented, the distinctiveness of the Faulknerian voice disappears. The first half of this study identifies a shift in Faulkner’s stream-of-consciousness novels from obscuring to displaying signs of technological mediation, while the second half aligns this trend with an editorial process that foregrounded the role of the typewriter. Tracing these ideas to an analogous theory of the unconscious by psychologist William James, who gave currency to the phrase “stream of consciousness,” this essay argues that the Faulknerian voice—and perhaps literary techniques writ large—depends on processes of mediation irreducible to, yet constitutive of, literary form.

You do not currently have access to this content.