Dr Alan Ali Saeed
‘Suddenly in the middle of the night she was five years old’: Feminism, Idealism and Stream of Consciousness in May Sinclair’s Mary Olivier: A Life
This article examines the relationship between May Sinclair’s critical identification of the term stream of consciousness to describe the new methods of literary modernism in the novels of Dorothy Richardson and how she consequently elaborated this critical insight in her own practice in the novel Mary Olivier: A Life. It discusses the underpinnings of Sinclair’s invention of this influential critical term in the context of both her commitment to feminism and her philosophical work on idealism and consciousness, as well as the work of the philosopher Henri Bergson. Mary Olivier is read as a novel which shows an early articulation of stream of consciousness and its relationship to Sinclair’s gendered interest in the autobiographical as a way of describing the specificity of female experience. Mary Olivier shows a clash between the eponymous protagonist’s desire to be an independent, free-thinking woman and the views of her family, especially her mother, who desire to force her into a conventional life more acceptable to patriarchy.
Keywords: Feminism, Idealism, May Sinclair, Mary Olivier, Stream of Consciousness, Modernism, Bergson.