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Interior Monologue By Herman, David

DOI: 10.4324/9781135000356-REM1578-1
Published: 02/05/2017
Retrieved: 19 June 2024, from


One of the hallmarks of modernist style, interior monologue affords a prime opportunity for studying how writers ranging from James Joyce and Dorothy Richardson to Italo Svevo and Alfred Döblin innovated on conventions for speech and thought presentation to create effects of psychological immediacy. Gerald Prince, building on Dorrit Cohn’s foundational account of techniques for presenting fictional minds, defines interior monologue as “the nonmediated presentation of a character’s thoughts and impressions or perceptions” (2003: 45). In this usage, interior monologue is a cover term that applies to more or less extended passages of free direct discourse—in other words, discourse that, though stripped of quotation marks and tag phrases such as she reflected or he wondered, can be assumed to correspond to or quote the unvocalized thoughts of a character. The "Penelope" episode of James Joyce’s Ulysses is often taken to be a prototypical instance of the form, though Joyce deploys interior monologue in less extended stretches throughout his novel, nowhere more movingly than at the end of the “Lestrygonians” episode. Here the text cross-cuts between reports of Leopold Bloom’s outward conduct as he attempts to avoid Blazes Boylan and passages that can be taken as offering an unfiltered presentation of Bloom’s perceptions and thoughts when he encounters his wife’s lover (italics mark instances of interior monologue):

His heart quopped softly. To the right. Museum. Goddesses. He swerved to the right.

Is it? Almost certain. Won’t look. Wine in my face. Why did I? Too heady. Yes, it is. The walk. Not see. Get on. (Joyce 1986: 150)

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Herman, David. Interior Monologue. Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, Taylor and Francis,

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