The Stream of Consciousness, the Camera-Eye, and the Spectacle of Memory: William Wordsworth, Charles Dickens, and James Joyce

  • Adam James Cuthbert

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis explores treatments of the stream of consciousness in the works of three writers: The Prelude by William Wordsworth, David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. Wordsworth and Dickens developed the stream of consciousness as a literary technique that was inherited and progressed by Joyce. This thesis examines how each writer used the technique to explore the subjective experience of consciousness within the Bildungsroman, while also using the technique as a means to develop his own account of consciousness. This thesis traces the stream metaphor back to the philosophy of Shadworth Hodgson. Following a summary of Hodgson's account, it examines the stream of consciousness as an evolving literary technique that each writer used to explore the experience of consciousness, while also defining it. Like Hodgson, the writers all adopted a neurophenomenological approach. This thesis traces the technique back to the Prelude's 'spots of time'. Wordsworth introduced the concept to examine the form of our memories, which Dickens and Joyce inherited. He emphasised that we experience memories as a form of visual spectacle. Furthermore, this thesis explores how the writers also developed the stream of consciousness as a visual form that highlighted how we picture the flow of our consciousness as a series of moving images. The writers all responded to influences from nineteenth century visual media, which created the illusion of moving images ahead of cinema, such as the panorama and the magic lantern. Specifically, the writers developed the stream of consciousness as a proto-cinematic visual form that was based on analogies between how we picture the flow of consciousness and the effects of earlier visual media that created moving images virtually. The writers all developed a literary form of the camera-eye in 4 order to realise how we picture the flow of consciousness by analogy to the effects of moving image media. However, they also used the camera-eye as an intermedial technique to explore our experience of visual perception. Wordsworth and Dickens developed prototypes of the camera-eye that incorporated influences from earlier visual media, while Joyce also drew upon cinema proper.
Date of Award2024
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDaniel Cook (Supervisor) & Keith Williams (Supervisor)


  • Stream of Consciousness
  • William Wordsworth
  • Charles Dickens
  • James Joyce
  • Shadworth Hodgson
  • Camera-Eye
  • Memory

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