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Merriam Webster

DiegesisDi`e*ge"sis (?), n. [NL., fr. Gr. �, fr. � to narrate; dia` through + � to lead.] A narrative or history; a recital or relation.

definition - Diegesis

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Diegesis

                   

Diegesis is a style of fiction storytelling which presents an interior view of a world and is:

  1. that world itself experienced by the characters in situations and events of the narrative
  2. telling, recounting, as opposed to showing, enacting.[1]

In diegesis the narrator tells the story. The narrator presents to the audience or the implied readers the actions, and perhaps thoughts, of the characters.

Contents

  In contrast to mimesis

Diegesis (Greek διήγησις "narration") and mimesis (Greek μίμησις "imitation") have been contrasted since Plato's and Aristotle's times. Mimesis shows rather than tells, by means of action that is enacted. Diegesis, however, is the telling of the story by a narrator. The narrator may speak as a particular character or may be the invisible narrator or even the all-knowing narrator who speaks from above in the form of commenting on the action or the characters.

In Book III of his Republic (c.373BC), the ancient Greek philosopher Plato examines the "style" of "poetry" (the term includes comedy, tragedy, epic and lyric poetry):[2] All types narrate events, he argues, but by differing means. He distinguishes between narration or report (diegesis) and imitation or representation (mimesis). Tragedy and comedy, he goes on to explain, are wholly imitative types; the dithyramb is wholly narrative; and their combination is found in epic poetry. When reporting or narrating, "the poet is speaking in his own person; he never leads us to suppose that he is any one else"; when imitating, the poet produces an "assimilation of himself to another, either by the use of voice or gesture".[3] In dramatic texts, the poet never speaks directly; in narrative texts, the poet speaks as him or herself.[4]

In his Poetics, the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle argues that kinds of "poetry" (the term includes drama, flute music, and lyre music for Aristotle) may be differentiated in three ways: according to their medium, according to their objects, and according to their mode or "manner" (section I); "For the medium being the same, and the objects the same, the poet may imitate by narration — in which case he can either take another personality as Homer does, or speak in his own person, unchanged — or he may present all his characters as living and moving before us" (section III).

  What it is

Diegesis may concern elements, such as characters, events and things within the main or primary narrative. However, the author may include elements which are not intended for the primary narrative, such as stories within stories; characters and events that may be referred to elsewhere or in historical contexts and that are therefore outside the main story and are thus presented in an extradiegetic situation.

  In literature

For narratologists, all parts of narratives — characters, narrators, existents, actors — are characterized in terms of diegesis. For definitions of diegesis, one should consult Aristotle's Poetics; Gerard Genette's Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method (Cornell University Press, 1980); or (for a readable introduction) H. Porter Abbott's The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative (Cambridge University Press 2002). In literature, discussions of diegesis tend to concern discourse/sjuzet (in Russian Formalism) (vs. story/fabula).

Diegesis is multi-levelled in narrative fiction. Genette distinguishes between three "diegetic levels". The extradiegetic level (the level of the narrative's telling) is, according to Prince, "external to (not part of) any diegesis." One might think of this as what we commonly understand to be the narrator's level, the level at which exists a narrator who is not part of the story he tells. The diegetic level is understood as the level of the characters, their thoughts and actions. The metadiegetic level or hypodiegetic level is that part of a diegesis that is embedded in another one and is often understood as a story within a story, as when a diegetic narrator himself/herself tells a story.

  In film

The classical distinction between the diegetic mode and the mimetic mode relate to the difference between the epos (or epic poetry) and drama.[5] The "epos" relates stories by telling them through narration, while drama enacts stories through direct embodiment (showing). When we come to a modern consideration of the cinema, it may appear that the medium is a straightforward example of mimetic storytelling--but it is not.[neutrality is disputed] In terms of classical poetics, the cinema is an epic form that utilizes dramatic elements; this is determined by the technologies of the camera and editing. Even in a spatially and temporally continuous scene (mimicking the theatrical situation, as it were), the camera chooses where to look for us. In a similar way, editing causes us to jump from one place (and/or time) to another, whether it be somewhere else in the room, or across town. This jump is a form of narration; it is as if a narrator whispers to us: "meanwhile, on the other side of the forest". It is for this reason that the "story-world" in cinema is referred to as "diegetic"; elements that belong to the film's narrative world are diegetic elements. This is why, in the cinema, we may refer to the film's diegetic world.

"Diegetic", in the cinema, typically refers to the internal world created by the story that the characters themselves experience and encounter: the narrative "space" that includes all the parts of the story, both those that are and those that are not actually shown on the screen (such as events that have led up to the present action; people who are being talked about; or events that are presumed to have happened elsewhere or at a different time).

Thus, elements of a film can be "diegetic" or "non-diegetic". These terms are most commonly used in reference to sound in a film, but can apply to other elements. For example, an insert shot that depicts something that is neither taking place in the world of the film, nor is seen, imagined, or thought by a character, is a non-diegetic insert. Titles, subtitles, and voice-over narration (with some exceptions) are also non-diegetic.

  Film sound and music

Sound in films is termed diegetic if it is part of the narrative sphere of the film.[6] For instance, if a character in the film is playing a piano, or turns on a CD player, the resulting sound is diegetic. If, on the other hand, music plays in the background but cannot be heard by the film's characters, it is termed non-diegetic or, more accurately, extra-diegetic. The score of a film is non-diegetic sound. One example is in The Truman Show, where a sequence shows the characters at night, when most of them are sleeping. Soft, soothing music plays, as is common in such scenes, but we assume that it does not exist in the fictional world of the film. However, when the camera cuts to the control room of Truman's artificial world, we see that the mood music is being played by Philip Glass standing at a bank of keyboards. The ways in which the Truman Show experiment blurs the line between diegesis and non-diegesis are a central theme to the film.

When music is played over the top of the on-screen visual action, it is known as non-diegetic (Coyle, 2004, p. 96). Coyle (2004) also points out that songs are commonly used in various film sequences to serve different purposes. They can be used to link scenes in the story where a character progresses through various stages towards a final goal. An example of this is in Rocky: Bill Conti's "Gonna Fly Now" plays non-diegetically as Rocky makes his way through his training regimen finishing on the top steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art with his hands famously raised in the air. Non-diegetic use of music in film is generally the norm; however, the line between diegetic and non-diegetic music can be blurred.

  In music-theatre

As with film, the term "diegetic" refers to the function of the music within a work's theatrical narrative, with particular relevance to the role of song. Within the typical format of opera/operetta, characters are not "aware" that they are singing. This is a non-diegetic use of song. If however the song is presented as a musical occurrence within the plot, then the number may be described as "diegetic".

For example, in The Sound of Music, the song "Do-Re-Mi" is diegetic, since the characters are aware they are singing. The character Maria is using the song to teach the children how to sing. It exists within the narrative sphere of the characters. In contrast, the song "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?" is non-diegetic, since the musical material exists external to the narrative.

In both the 1936 and the 1951 film versions of Show Boat, as well as in the original stage version, the song "Bill" is diegetic. The character Julie LaVerne sings it during a rehearsal in a nightclub. A solo piano (played onscreen) accompanies her, and the film's offscreen orchestra (presumably not heard by the characters) sneaks in for the second verse of the song. Julie's other song in the film, "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" is also diegetic. In the 1936 film, it is supposed to be an old folk song known only to blacks; in the 1951 film it is merely a song which Julie knows; however, she and the captain's daughter Magnolia are fully aware that Julie is singing. When Julie, Queenie, and the black chorus sing the second chorus of the song in the 1936 version, they are presumably unaware of any orchestral accompaniment, but in the 1951 film, when Magnolia sings and dances this same chorus, she does so to the accompaniment of two deckhands on the boat playing a banjo and a harmonica, respectively. Two other songs in the 1936 Show Boat are also diegetic, "Goodbye My Lady Love" (sung by the comic dancers Ellie and Frank), and "After the Ball", sung by Magnolia. Both are interpolated into the film, and both are performed in the same nightclub in which Julie sings Bill.

The "Once More, with Feeling" episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer toys with the concept of non-diegetic versus diegetic music when the characters find themselves compelled to burst into song in the style of a musical. The audience's first critical assumption—that this is a "musical episode" where the Buffy cast is presumably unaware that they are singing — is overturned when it becomes clear that the characters are all too aware of their musical interludes and that determining the supernatural causes for the singing will be the focus of the episode's story. The audience is then forced to abandon one form of suspension of disbelief (i.e. that musical numbers will go unacknowledged by the characters in a musical) in favour of another (that the characters are aware of how unnatural spontaneous singing is in the context of the "real world").

  In role-playing games

In role-playing games diegesis includes all the "in-game" parts of the story, both those that are and aren't actually played out. However, rules or system elements that are used to resolve what does and doesn't happen in the imagined situation are typically "non-diegetic". For example, the number of hit points that a character has may determine whether or not a character dies in a fight, but are not themselves part of the narrative situation. The term "meta-concept" is also used for some non-diegetic elements.[citation needed]

Discussion of non-diegetic information by role-playing characters comprises much of the humor in the comic strip The Order of the Stick. For example, characters frequently discuss their saving throws, hit points, and experience points. Cartoon tropes are also skewered, such as when one character notices that another "has the X's in the eyes" — in other words, is dead. This is similarly carried out in the comic 8-Bit Theater where the character Red Mage constantly talks about his stats and how he can manipulate them to his favor, much to the bewilderment of his comrades.

  Footnotes

  1. ^ Gerald Prince, A Dictionary of Narratology, 2003, University of Nebraska Press, ISBN 0-8032-8776-3
  2. ^ An etext of Plato's Republic is available from Project Gutenberg. The most relevant section is the following: "You are aware, I suppose, that all mythology and poetry is a narration of events, either past, present, or to come? / Certainly, he replied. / And narration may be either simple narration, or imitation, or a union of the two? / [...] / And this assimilation of himself to another, either by the use of voice or gesture, is the imitation of the person whose character he assumes? / Of course. / Then in this case the narrative of the poet may be said to proceed by way of imitation? / Very true. / Or, if the poet everywhere appears and never conceals himself, then again the imitation is dropped, and his poetry becomes simple narration."(Plato, Republic, Book III.)
  3. ^ Plato, Republic, Book III.
  4. ^ See also Pfister (1977, 2-3) and Elam: "classical narrative is always oriented towards an explicit there and then, towards an imaginary "elsewhere" set in the past and which has to be evoked for the reader through predication and description. Dramatic worlds, on the other hand, are presented to the spectator as "hypothetically actual" constructs, since they are "seen" in progress "here and now" without narratorial mediation. [...] This is not merely a technical distinction but constitutes, rather, one of the cardinal principles of a poetics of the drama as opposed to one of narrative fiction. The distinction is, indeed, implicit in Aristotle's differentiation of representational modes, namely diegesis (narrative description) versus mimesis (direct imitation)" (1980, 110-111).
  5. ^ Elam (1980, 110-111).
  6. ^ http://www.archive.org/details/GregoryKurczynskiOnOutsightRadioHours, Interview with a filmmaker on the diegetic role of music in film

  Bibliography

  • Aristotle. 1974. "Poetics". Trans. S.H. Butcher. In Dramatic Theory and Criticism: Greeks to Grotowski. Ed. Bernard F. Dukore. Florence, KY: Heinle & Heinle. ISBN 0-03-091152-4. p. 31-55.
  • Bunia, Remigius. 2010. "Diegesis and Representation: Beyond the Fictional World, on the Margins of Story and Narrative," Poetics Today 31.4, 679–720. doi:10.1215/03335372-2010-010.
  • Elam, Keir. 1980. The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama. New Accents Ser. London and New York: Methuen. ISBN 0-416-72060-9.
  • Pfister, Manfred. 1977. The Theory and Analysis of Drama. Trans. John Halliday. European Studies in English Literature Ser. Cambridige: Cambridge University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-521-42383-X.
  • Plato. c.373BCE. Republic. Retrieved from Project Gutenberg on 2 September 2007.
  • Coyle, R. (2004). Pop goes the music track. Metro Magazine, 140, 94-95.
   
               

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