Diegesis

Diegesis

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Diegesis is a style of representation in fiction
Fiction
Fiction is the form of any narrative or informative work that deals, in part or in whole, with information or events that are not factual, but rather, imaginary—that is, invented by the author. Although fiction describes a major branch of literary work, it may also refer to theatrical,...

 and is:
  1. the (fictional) world in which the situations and events narrated occur; and
  2. telling, recounting, as opposed to showing, enacting.


In diegesis the narrator
Narrator
A narrator is, within any story , the fictional or non-fictional, personal or impersonal entity who tells the story to the audience. When the narrator is also a character within the story, he or she is sometimes known as the viewpoint character. The narrator is one of three entities responsible for...

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

In contrast to mimesis


Diegesis (Greek διήγησις "narration") and mimesis
Mimesis
Mimesis , from μιμεῖσθαι , "to imitate," from μῖμος , "imitator, actor") is a critical and philosophical term that carries a wide range of meanings, which include imitation, representation, mimicry, imitatio, receptivity, nonsensuous similarity, the act of resembling, the act of expression, and the...

(Greek μίμησις "imitation") have been contrasted since Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

's and Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

's times. Mimesis shows rather than tells, by means of action that is enacted. Diegesis, however, is the telling of the story
Narrative
A narrative is a constructive format that describes a sequence of non-fictional or fictional events. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, "to recount", and is related to the adjective gnarus, "knowing" or "skilled"...

 by a narrator
Narrator
A narrator is, within any story , the fictional or non-fictional, personal or impersonal entity who tells the story to the audience. When the narrator is also a character within the story, he or she is sometimes known as the viewpoint character. The narrator is one of three entities responsible for...

. 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
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 philosopher Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 examines the "style" of "poetry" (the term includes comedy
Comedy
Comedy , as a popular meaning, is any humorous discourse or work generally intended to amuse by creating laughter, especially in television, film, and stand-up comedy. This must be carefully distinguished from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in...

, tragedy
Tragedy
Tragedy is a form of art based on human suffering that offers its audience pleasure. While most cultures have developed forms that provoke this paradoxical response, tragedy refers to a specific tradition of drama that has played a unique and important role historically in the self-definition of...

, epic
Epic poetry
An epic is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. Oral poetry may qualify as an epic, and Albert Lord and Milman Parry have argued that classical epics were fundamentally an oral poetic form...

 and lyric poetry
Lyric poetry
Lyric poetry is a genre of poetry that expresses personal and emotional feelings. In the ancient world, lyric poems were those which were sung to the lyre. Lyric poems do not have to rhyme, and today do not need to be set to music or a beat...

): All types narrate events, he argues, but by differing means. He distinguishes between narration or report (diegesis) and imitation or representation (mimesis
Mimesis
Mimesis , from μιμεῖσθαι , "to imitate," from μῖμος , "imitator, actor") is a critical and philosophical term that carries a wide range of meanings, which include imitation, representation, mimicry, imitatio, receptivity, nonsensuous similarity, the act of resembling, the act of expression, and the...

). Tragedy and comedy, he goes on to explain, are wholly imitative types; the dithyramb
Dithyramb
The dithyramb was an ancient Greek hymn sung and danced in honour of Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility; the term was also used as an epithet of the god: Plato, in The Laws, while discussing various kinds of music mentions "the birth of Dionysos, called, I think, the dithyramb." Plato also...

 is wholly narrative; and their combination is found in epic poetry
Epic poetry
An epic is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. Oral poetry may qualify as an epic, and Albert Lord and Milman Parry have argued that classical epics were fundamentally an oral poetic form...

. 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". In dramatic texts, the poet never speaks directly; in narrative texts, the poet speaks as him or herself.

In his Poetics, the ancient Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 philosopher Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 argues that kinds of "poetry" (the term includes drama
Drama
Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The term comes from a Greek word meaning "action" , which is derived from "to do","to act" . The enactment of drama in theatre, performed by actors on a stage before an audience, presupposes collaborative modes of production and a...

, flute
Flute
The flute is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening...

 music
Music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

, and lyre
Lyre
The lyre is a stringed musical instrument known for its use in Greek classical antiquity and later. The word comes from the Greek "λύρα" and the earliest reference to the word is the Mycenaean Greek ru-ra-ta-e, meaning "lyrists", written in Linear B syllabic script...

 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).

Though they conceive of mimesis
Mimesis
Mimesis , from μιμεῖσθαι , "to imitate," from μῖμος , "imitator, actor") is a critical and philosophical term that carries a wide range of meanings, which include imitation, representation, mimicry, imitatio, receptivity, nonsensuous similarity, the act of resembling, the act of expression, and the...

in quite different ways, its relation with diegesis is identical in Plato's and Aristotle's formulations; one represents, the other reports; one embodies, the other narrates; one transforms, the other indicates; one knows only a continuous present, the other looks back on a past.

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
Narratology
Narratology denotes both the theory and the study of narrative and narrative structure and the ways that these affect our perception. While in principle the word may refer to any systematic study of narrative, in practice its usage is rather more restricted. It is an anglicisation of French...

, 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
Gérard Genette
Gérard Genette is a French literary theorist, associated in particular with the structuralist movement and such figures as Roland Barthes and Claude Lévi-Strauss, from whom he adapted the concept of bricolage.-Life:...

'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
Epic poetry
An epic is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. Oral poetry may qualify as an epic, and Albert Lord and Milman Parry have argued that classical epics were fundamentally an oral poetic form...

) and drama. 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 straight-forward example of mimetic storytelling--but it is not. 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
Non-diegetic insert
In film studies, diegesis refers to the story world, and the events that occur within it. Thus, non-diegesis are things which occur outside the story-world....

. Titles, subtitles, and voice-over
Voice-over
Voice-over is a production technique where a voice which is not part of the narrative is used in a radio, television production, filmmaking, theatre, or other presentations...

 narration (with some exceptions) are also non-diegetic.

Film sound and music


Sound in films
Film score
A film score is original music written specifically to accompany a film, forming part of the film's soundtrack, which also usually includes dialogue and sound effects...

 is termed diegetic if it is part of the narrative sphere of the film. 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
The Truman Show
The Truman Show is a 1998 American satirical comedy-drama film directed by Peter Weir and written by Andrew Niccol. The cast includes Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank, as well as Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich, Ed Harris and Natascha McElhone...

, 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
Philip Glass
Philip Glass is an American composer. He is considered to be one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century and is widely acknowledged as a composer who has brought art music to the public .His music is often described as minimalist, along with...

 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
Rocky
Rocky is a 1976 American sports drama film directed by John G. Avildsen and both written by and starring Sylvester Stallone. It tells the rags to riches American Dream story of Rocky Balboa, an uneducated but kind-hearted debt collector for a loan shark in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania...

: Bill Conti’s "Gonna Fly Now
Gonna Fly Now
"Gonna Fly Now", also known as "Theme from Rocky", is the theme song from the movie Rocky, composed by Bill Conti with lyrics by Carol Connors and Ayn Robbins, and performed by DeEtta Little and Nelson Pigford...

" 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 Sound of Music
The Sound of Music is a musical by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. It is based on the memoir of Maria von Trapp, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers...

, the song "Do-Re-Mi
Do-Re-Mi
"Do-Re-Mi" is a show tune from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music. Within the story, it is used by Maria to teach the notes of the major musical scale to the Von Trapp children who learn to sing for the first time, even though their father has disallowed frivolity after...

" 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?
Maria (1959 song)
"Maria", sometimes known as "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" is a show tune from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, The Sound of Music....

" is non-diegetic, since the musical material exists external to the narrative.

In both the 1936 and the 1951 film versions of Show Boat
Show Boat
Show Boat is a musical in two acts with music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. It was originally produced in New York in 1927 and in London in 1928, and was based on the 1926 novel of the same name by Edna Ferber. The plot chronicles the lives of those living and working...

, as well as in the original stage version, the song "Bill" is diegetic. The character Julie LaVerne
Julie Dozier
Julie Dozier is a character in Edna Ferber's 1926 novel Show Boat. In Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's classic musical version of it, which opened on Broadway on December 27, 1927, her stage name is Julie La Verne. She is exposed as Julie Dozier in Act I...

 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
Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man
"Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" with music by Jerome Kern, and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, is one of the most famous songs from their classic 1927 musical play Show Boat, adapted from Edna Ferber's novel.-Context:...

" 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
After the Ball (song)
After the Ball is a popular song written in 1891 by Charles K. Harris. The song is a classic waltz in 3/4 time. In the song, an older man tells his niece why he has never married. He saw his sweetheart kissing another man at a ball, and he refused to listen to her explanation...

", 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
Suspension of disbelief
Suspension of disbelief or "willing suspension of disbelief" is a formula for justifying the use of fantastic or non-realistic elements in literary works of fiction...

 (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.

Discussion of non-diegetic information by role-playing characters comprises much of the humor in the comic strip The Order of the Stick
The Order of the Stick
The Order of the Stick is a comedic webcomic that celebrates and satirizes tabletop role-playing games and medieval fantasy through the ongoing tale of the eponymous fellowship of adventuring heroes...

. For example, characters frequently discuss their saving throws, hit points, and experience points. Cartoon tropes
Trope (literature)
A literary trope is the usage of figurative language in literature, or a figure of speech in which words are used in a sense different from their literal meaning...

 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
8-Bit Theater
8-Bit Theater is a completed sprite comic created by Brian Clevinger, and published in 1,225 episodes from March 2, 2001 to June 1, 2010. One of the most popular web comics, it won the Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards for best fantasy comic in 2002...

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.