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Related: narratology - mimesis

Sound in films 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, 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 (commonly but erroneously called the "sound track") is "non-diegetic" sound. An example: Jacques Tati's film Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (Mr. Hulot's Holiday) systematically builds much of its humor through the systematic confusion and shifting placement of "diegetic" and "non-diegetic" sound-image relationships, showing that these positions depend on the audience's perception of the mimetic space of the film. In the film Blowup, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, all the music heard in the film is diegetic-either heard from a live pop group, record player or car radio. Director Luis Bu˝uel disliked non-diegetic music, and tried to avoid it in his films. The films of his French era have absolutely no score, some (Belle de Jour, Diary of a Chambermaid) contain absolutely no music whatsoever. Belle de Jour does, however, feature (potentially) non-diegetic sound effects, believed by some to be clues as to whether or not the current scene is a dream. [Dec 2006]


A narrative or history; a recital or relation. --American Heritage Dictionary

In diegesis the author tells the story. He is the narrator himself who presents to the audience or the readership his or his characters' thoughts and all that is in his or their imagination, their fantasies and dreams. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diegesis, May 2004

An old term for an utterance, in whatever form (descriptions, narratives, propositions, etc.) that makes no evaluation and draws no conclusion. Roland Barthes reintroduced the word in The Responsibility of Forms and elsewhere to distinguish what is shown ( mimesis) from what is told. See also story. The adjectival form is "diegetic." --Robert Belton, Words of Art

Mimesis in contrast to diegesis

It was also Plato and Aristotle who contrasted mimesis with diegesis. In diegesis it is not the form in which a work of art represents reality but that in which the author is the speaker who is describing events in the narrative he presents to the audience.

It is in diegesis that the author addresses the audience or the readership directly to express his freely creative art of the imagination, of fantasies and dreams in contrast to mimesis. Diegesis was thought of as telling, the author narrating action indirectly and describing what is in the character's mind and emotions, while mimesis is seen in terms of showing what is going on in characters' inner thoughts and emotions through his external actions. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimesis#Mimesis_in_contrast_to_diegesis [Nov 2005]


  1. Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method - Gerard Genette, Jane E. Lewin (Translator) [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    This book should be required reading for anyone who wants to look seriously at narrative theory. Genette's analysis of the construction of time in narrative discourse is the still the model for theorists writing since then. Such categories as order, frequency, and duration in the narrative presentation of story-time show how narrative decisions on the part of authors can have dramatically different rhetorical effects. Genette views these narrative strategies as a form of rhetorical figuration and gives them terms drawn from classical rhetoric (e.g., "prolepsis" for a flashing forward, "analepsis" for a flashback). Genette's work is one of the clearest of all the French theorists of the 1970s and 1980s who became popular among literary critics and theorists in the US. His work is easily the most empirical of his academic geration of French theorists and perhaps the most likely to be useful in generations to come. --Richard Aberle via amazon.com