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Brief History of the Interior Monologue


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An imaginary, inaugural sketch of what a brief history of the 'interior monologue' might look like. Here 'interior monologue' is explored as both a mode of representing a character's thoughts and more problematically as a practice 'we' might actually participate in.

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Brief History of the Interior Monologue

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  4. 4. <ul><li>“ It is a revelation to compare the Don Quixote of Pierre Menard with that of Miguel de Cervantes. Cervantes, for example wrote the following (part 1, Chapter IX): </li></ul><ul><li>… truth, whose mother is history, rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, exemplar and advisor to the present, and the future’s counselor. </li></ul><ul><li>This catalog of attributes, written in the seventeenth century, and written by the ‘ingenious layman’ Miguel de Cervantes, is mere rhetorical praise of history. Menard, on the other hand, writes: </li></ul><ul><li>… truth, whose mother is history, rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, exemplar and advisor to the present, and the future’s counselor. </li></ul><ul><li>History, the mother of truth! – the idea is staggering. Menard, a contemporary of William James, defines history not as delving into reality but as the very fount of reality. Historical truth, for Menard, is not ‘what happened’; it is what we believe happened. </li></ul><ul><li>(Borges 1998, p.41) </li></ul>
  5. 5. Brief History of the Interior Monologue James Clegg
  6. 6. <ul><li>“ In the early nineteenth century… it became conventional, at least among historians, to identify truth with fact and to regard fiction as the opposite of truth, hence as a hindrance to the understanding of reality rather than as a way of apprehending it. History came to be set over against fiction, and especially the novel, as the representation of the ‘actual’ to the representation of the ‘possible’ or only ‘imaginable’”. (White 2004, p.22) </li></ul>
  7. 7. Stuff, stuff, STUFF? Why Interior Monologue? <ul><li>Metahistory: Emphasises the literary nature of History. </li></ul><ul><li>People’s History: Making (authoritative) sense of the world requires a process of selective exclusion (people, types of discourse, points of view). </li></ul><ul><li>Cultural Turn: Contention that cultures shape histories. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Brief History of the Interior Monologue <ul><li>Locating a Study of the Interior Monologue: Basic definitions, uses and possibilities. </li></ul><ul><li>The Ghost in the Machine and the Internal Conversation. </li></ul><ul><li>The epistolary novel. </li></ul><ul><li>Creative possibilities: back to the brief history of stuff. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Standard Definitions; ‘Interior Monologue’ <ul><li>“ A literary genre that presents a fictional character’s sequences of thoughts in the form of a monologue.” (WorbWeb Online 2005-2008) </li></ul><ul><li>In an interior monologue “the grammatical subject of the discourse is an ‘I’, and we, as it were, overhear the character verbalising his of her thoughts as they occur…” (Lodge 1992, p.34) </li></ul>
  10. 10. Standard Definitions; ‘Interior Monologue’ Example of an (Interior) Monologue Do I have an original thought in my head, my bald head? Maybe if I were happier, my hair wouldn’t be falling out. Life is short; I need to make the most of it. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I’m a walking cliché. I really need to go to the doctor and have my leg checked. There's something wrong. Oh well. The dentist called again, I'm way overdue. If I stopped putting things off, I would be happier. All I do is sit on my fat ass, if my ass wasn’t fat, I would be happier. I wouldn’t have to wear these shirts with the tails out all the time; like that’s fooling anyone. Fat ass. I should start jogging again. Five miles a day; really do it this time. Maybe rock climbing; I need to turn my life around. What do I need to do? I need to fall in love. I need to have a girlfriend. I need to read more; improve myself. (Charlie Kaufman [as himself] in Jonze 2003)
  11. 11. Standard Definitions; ‘Interior Monologue’ Example of an (Interior) Monologue Er, excuse me, who am I? Hello? Why am I here? What’s my purpose in life? What do I mean by who am I? Calm down, get a grip now … Oh! This is an interesting sensation, what is it? It’s a sort of … yawning, tingling sensation in my …my … well I suppose I’d better start finding names for things if I want to make any headway in what for the sake of what I shall call an argument I shall call the world, so lets call it my stomach. Good. Ooooh, it’s getting quite strong. And hey, what about this whistling roaring sound going past what I’m suddenly going to call my head? Perhaps I can call that wind! Is that a good name? It’ll do … perhaps I can find a better name for it later when I’ve found out what it’s for. It must be very important because there certainly seems to be a hell of a lot of it […] And wow! Hey! What’s this thing suddenly coming towards me very fast? Very very fast. So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding name like… ow … ound … round … ground! That’s it! That’s a good name – ground! I wonder if it will be friends with me? The Sperm Whale (Adams1979, p113-4)
  12. 12. Standard Definitions; ‘Interior Monologue’ Stream of Consciousness <ul><li>As writer David Lodge has commented, we might not expect to find the thoughts of other people open and transparent. And so ‘Interior Monologue’, as a way of representing these thoughts, may necessarily become indecipherable and abstract. (Lodge 1992) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Interior Monologue: A type of stream of consciousness in which the author depicts the interior thoughts of a single individual in the same order these thoughts occur inside that character’s head. The author does not attempt to provide (or provides minimally) any commentary, description, or guiding discussion to help the reader untangle the complex web of thoughts, nor does [the author] clean up the vague surge of thoughts into grammatically correct sentences or a logical order. Indeed, it is as if the authorial voice ceases to exist, and the reader directly ‘overhears’ the thought pouring forth randomly from the character’s mind.” ( ) </li></ul>
  13. 13. Standard Definitions; ‘Interior Monologue’ Interior Monologue/Stream of Consciousness <ul><li>“… I hope he’ll come on Monday as he said at the same time four I hate people who come at all hours answer the door you think it’s the vegetables then its somebody and you all undressed or the door of the filthy sloppy kitchen blows open the day old frosyface Goodwin called about the concert in Lombard street and I just…” Molly Bloom (Joyce 2000, p. 884) </li></ul><ul><li>“ How fresh, how calm, stiller than this of course, the air was in the early morning; like the flap of a wave; the kiss of a wave; chill and sharp and yet (for a girl of eighteen as she was) solemn, feeling as she did, standing there at the open window, that something awful was about to happen; looking at the flowers, at the trees with the smoke winding off them and the rooks rising, falling…” Clarissa Dalloway (Woolf 2003) </li></ul>
  14. 14. Standard Definitions; ‘Interior Monologue’ Interior Monologue/Stream of Consciousness <ul><li>“ a … distinction may be made between the narrative novel and the stream of consciousness novel. The technical difference lies in two different forms of thinking, which may be said to carry through consistently: directed thinking and dream or fantasy thinking. The novel of narration, attempting communication by means of conventional syntax, is troublesome and exhaustive; the stream of consciousness novel, on the contrary, carries on uninterruptedly … working spontaneously, with reminiscences and anticipations.” (Freidman 1955 p.4) </li></ul>
  15. 15. Visual Representations Woody Allen as Allan Felix in Play it again Sam (Ross 1972)
  16. 16. Visual Representations Fear an Loathing in Las Vegas (Gilliam 1998)
  17. 17. Visual Representations (Jonze 2003)
  18. 18. Visual Representations
  19. 19. Creating a sense of intimacy <ul><li>Literary criticism of the early twentieth century developed an analysis based upon ‘point of view’, i.e. the point from which the events of a story unfold. The Interior Monologue was seen to be the most intimate of these points of view, soliciting the greatest amount of sympathy from the reader. </li></ul><ul><li>Mark Currie notes: “We are more likely to sympathise with people when we have a lot of information about their inner lives, motivations, fears etc. [Also] we sympathise with people when we see other people who do not share our access to their inner lives judging them harshly or incorrectly.” (Currie 1998, p.19) </li></ul>
  20. 20. Assimilating the diary
  21. 21. Broader Uses <ul><li>Interior Monologues </li></ul><ul><li>We want kids to think deeply about other people – why they do what they do, why they think what they think.  We want students to care about each other and the world.  Interior monologues are a good place to start.                                                                      Bill Bigelow and Linda Christensen                                                                                                 </li></ul><ul><li>Rethinking our Classrooms </li></ul><ul><li>An interior monologue is the written expression of the imagined thoughts of another person.  One way of teaching students empathy is to have them practice imagining another person’s point of view.  Students express empathy for a character or person by writing what they imagine to be the thoughts of that person. </li></ul><ul><li>Students may write interior monologues of people in history, literature, movies, the news, from photos, or other situations that serve your purpose. </li></ul><ul><li>(Trisha Sotropa 2001) </li></ul>
  22. 22. Broader Uses <ul><li>Imagining Thoughts of Others </li></ul><ul><li>After watching a film, reading a novel, short story, or essay, or performing improvisation skits, the class brainstorms particular key moments, turning points, or critical passages characters confronted. During a unit on the Vietnam War, we watch the 1974 documentary Hearts and Minds. The film (available in many video stores) weaves interviews with U.S. soldiers and Vietnamese with newsreel footage of the war and unexpected scenes of daily life in the United States. Student suggestions included writing from the points of view of an American pilot who has become critical of his role in the war, a North Vietnamese man whose entire family has been killed in a bombing raid, a Native American Marine who was called “blanket ass” and “squaw” by commanding officers, and a Buddhist monk who solemnly lectures the United States on the futility of trying to conquer Vietnam. </li></ul><ul><li>Bill Bigelow and Linda Christensen </li></ul>
  23. 23. Broader Uses The Internet A lot of ‘Interior Monologue’ and ‘Stream of Consciousness’ s ites offer people a chance to deposit personal comments about aspects of their lives they feel they want to share. These sites also offer other people the chance to leave comments and responses to the original post; these are might be sympathetic statements offering support.
  24. 24. The Ghost in the Machine How does the ‘Interior Monologue’ relate to us? What is the voice in our heads?
  25. 25. The Ghost in the Machine <ul><li>A popular concept, called the ‘official view’ by Ryle and relating to the writings of 17 th Century Philosopher Ren é Descartes, suggests that ‘inner selves’ (the mind) is completely isolated from our outer selves (the body). </li></ul><ul><li>Minds being isolated, thoughts must arise from an attribute of the mind such as intelligence or a person’s ‘self’, distinct from the attributes of the body. (“I shall… stop here to consider the thoughts which of themselves spring up in my mind, and which were not inspired by anything beyond my own nature alone…” (Descartes 1997 [1641],p.140)) </li></ul>
  26. 26. The Ghost in the Machine <ul><li>Continuing to discuss the ‘official view’ Ryle writes, “one person has no direct access of any sort to the events of the inner life of another … Direct access to the workings of a mind is the privilege of that mind itself; in default of such a privileged access, the workings of that mind are inevitably occult to everyone else.” (Ryle 1990 [1949]) </li></ul><ul><li>Here Ryle critically discusses a concept progressed by philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778); that through introspection, by turning thoughts inward , a person can really see or observe their true self, achieve a true state of self-consciousness. Self help gurus are still prone to say that we can ‘look within ourselves’ (Guignon 2004, p.2). </li></ul>
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  28. 28. The Ghost in the Machine <ul><li>Our ‘Interior Monologue’, the voice in our own heads - following these ideas - bears the actual mark of the inner self which compelled it. </li></ul><ul><li>By ‘looking’ inside myself, I can become more aware of this ‘mark’, of what I am. My thoughts about myself have a truth denied everybody else. </li></ul>
  29. 29. The Ghost in the Machine <ul><li>The problem of becoming self conscious. </li></ul>
  30. 30. The Ghost in the Machine “ This trick of talking to oneself in silence is acquired neither quickly nor without effort; and it is a necessary condition of our acquiring it that we should have previously learned to talk intelligently aloud and have heard and understood other people doing so. Keeping our thoughts to ourselves is a sophisticated accomplishment. It was not until the Middle Ages that people learned to read without reading aloud. Similarly a boy has to learn to read aloud before he learns to read under his breath, and to prattle aloud before he prattles to himself. Yet many theorists have supposed that the silence in which most of us have learned to think is a defining property of thought.” (Gilbert Ryle 2000, p.28)
  31. 31. The Ghost in the Machine “ People tend to identify their minds with the ‘place’ where they conduct their secret thought. They even come to suppose that there is a special mystery about how we publish thoughts instead of realizing that we employ a special artifice to keep them to ourselves.” (Ryle 2000, p.28)
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  33. 33. The Internal Conversation <ul><li>“ What I do defend is that there is something very important to be known, which is indeed inner and private, but that is much better captured by conceptualizing it as the ‘inner conversation’ whose reporting has nothing in common with observational reports.” (Archer 2003, p30) </li></ul><ul><li>According to Archer we converse with ourselves internally and ask, in various ways, questions about ourselves. This involves ordering and prioritising concepts regarding the world around us: “A society of the self blind is a contradiction in terms, because each would be waiting upon the rest to give lead, which none at all would be capable of doing, since they did not know what they desired of (or believed about) any state of affairs...” </li></ul>
  34. 34. The Internal Conversation <ul><li>“… this private life of the mind [is] not a passive matter of ‘looking inward’ to see what we found there, but an active process in which we continuously converse with ourselves, precisely in order to define what we do believe, do desire and do intend to do.” (ibid.) </li></ul>
  35. 35. The Internal Conversation <ul><li>Communicative reflexives: “people who indeed initiate internal dialogues in the privacy of their own minds” (Ibid p.167), but complete them interpersonally. </li></ul><ul><li>Autonomous reflexives: “It is the lone exercise of a mental activity, which its practitioners recognise as being an internal dialogue with themselves and one which they do not need and do not want to be supplemented by external exchanges with other people.” (Ibid p.210) </li></ul><ul><li>Meta- reflexives: Where you consider your own reflexivity and its accuracy. </li></ul>
  36. 36. The epistolary novel ‘ Writing even encouraged inner contemplation through the medium of the ‘diary’ of the ‘confession’, an inner dialogue in which the individual could place on record, objectify and even narrativize his/her own private experience. If circulated, this could be read by other individuals, offering the opportunity to reflect on or narrativize their private experiences, as opposed to simply embracing the orally transmitted common public identity and traditions of a larger group.’ (Cobley 2001, pp. 79-80)
  37. 37. The epistolary novel Assimilating the Diary <ul><li>Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) presented itself as an historical document, a collection of memoirs from the ship-wrecked and stranded Crusoe. As stated in the Preface, “The editor believes the thing to be a just history of fact; neither is there any appearance of fiction in it.” </li></ul><ul><li>The device of presenting Memoirs or letters allow the Novel to be written in the first-person throughout, and give the appearance that the only authorial voice is that of Crusoe, rather than Defoe. </li></ul>
  38. 38. The epistolary novel <ul><li>“ Epistolarity functioned in part to create an illusion of authenticity, a stratagem designed in response to traditional attacks on novelists as frauds or liars... Its characters communicated with each other directly through the medium of writing, which encouraged a frankness and openness that enabled them to reveal to each other and to the reader the motives underlying their actions... The letter rendered the opaque transparent, making what had previously been private and secret now public and open.” (Melton 2001, p.100) </li></ul>
  39. 39. The epistolary novel Another example of the epistolary novel, which translates as ‘novel of letters’, is Pamela . Published in 1740 it purports to be the letters and diary entries of a “virtuous modest girl”. Samuel Richardson, Pamela (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001)
  40. 40. Creative possibilities <ul><li>“ Twas the darkness that did the trick, black as tar, that and the silence, though how the men contriv’d to clamber their way up the cliff with their musket and seventy rounds on their backs, I’m sure I don’t know how even vthough I saw it with my own eyes and did it myself before very long.” ( Schama 1991, p.3) </li></ul><ul><li>“ These are stories... Of broken bodies, uncertain ends, indeterminate consequences. And in keeping with the self-disrupting nature of the narratives, I have desperately dislocated the conventions by which histories establish coherence and persuasiveness [...] This is not to say I scorn the bourdaries between fact and fiction. It is merely to imply that even in the most austere scholarly report from the archives, the inventive faculty – selecting, pruning, editing, commenting, delivering judgements – is in full play...” Schama is critical of “the banal axiom that claims for historial knowledge must always be fatally circumscribed by the character and prejudices of its narrator.” (Schama 1991 pp. 320-2) </li></ul>
  41. 41. Creative possibilities <ul><li>“ The stories offered here play with the teasing gap separating a lived event and its subsequent narration... They are works of the imagination not scholarship. [The stories] dissolve the certainties of events into the multiple possibilities of alternative narratives.” </li></ul>
  42. 42. References <ul><li>Films </li></ul><ul><li>Gilliam, Terry (1998) Fear and Loathing . </li></ul><ul><li>Jonze, Spike (2003) Adaptation, Columbia Pictures, 2003. </li></ul><ul><li>Ross, Herbert (1972) Play it Again Sam , </li></ul><ul><li>Books </li></ul><ul><li>Adams, Douglas (1979) The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy, London, Pan Books. p113-4. </li></ul><ul><li>Archer, Margaret (2003) Structure, Agency and the Internal Conversation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Borges, Jorge Luis (1998) Fictions , London Penguin </li></ul><ul><li>Bigelow, Bill and Christensen, Julia. (2001) </li></ul><ul><li>Cobley, Paul (2001) Narrative , London, Routledge. </li></ul><ul><li>Descartes, Rene (1641) Key Philosophical Writings . Hertfordshire, Wordsworth Editions. </li></ul><ul><li>Friedman, Melvin (1955) Stream of Consciousness: a study in Literary Method . London, New Haven. </li></ul><ul><li>Joyce, James (2000) Ulysses London: Penguin Books. </li></ul><ul><li>Lodge, David (1992) The Craft of Fiction , London, Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd. </li></ul><ul><li>Melton, James V.H (2001) The Rise of the Public in Enlightenment Europe , Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Ryle, Gilbert (1990) The Concept of the Mind , London, Penguin Ltd. </li></ul><ul><li>Schama, Simon (1991) Dead Certainties (Unwarranted Speculations) London, Penguin. </li></ul><ul><li>Sotropa, Trisha (2001) Interior Monologues , at [accessed 25/02/2008]. </li></ul><ul><li>White, Hayden (2004) The Fictions of Factual Representation in Preziosi, D and Farugo, C (2004) Grasping the World: The Idea of the Museum , Aldershot, Ashgate. Pp. 22-34. </li></ul><ul><li>WordWeb Online (2005- 2008) at [accessed 25/02/2009] </li></ul><ul><li>Woolf, Virginia. (2003) Mrs Dalloway , Ware, Wordworth Editions Ltd. </li></ul>