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Diegese ( French diégèse , from ancient Greek διήγησις diegesis , narration, discussion, execution ') is an analytical term in narrative theory . He draws attention to whether something is inside or outside the narrated world.

The term is a modification of the ancient Greek diegesis , which describes a narrative speech, in contrast to mimesis . Diegesis must, however, be clearly distinguished from diegesis. According to Genette, “Diegesis (...) is more of a whole universe than a combination of actions. It is therefore not the story, but the universe in which it takes place ”. For Souriau, it includes "everything that happens according to the (...) presented fiction and what it implies if one saw it as true."

In art history, the term diegesis is used in the context of reception aesthetics . This provides information on the question of the way in which the things and people of the internal image communication relate to one another (including or apparently excluding the viewer). It provides information about the arrangement of the characters on the picture surface and / or in perspective space, the position they take on one another and on the viewer (deictic arrangement of the work).

Concept history

In 1950, Anne Souriau created a term as part of a working group on aesthetics at the Institute of Filmology at the Université de Paris , which her father Étienne first used at the beginning of the 1950/51 semester as part of a lecture on the structure of the cinematic universe and the vocabulary of filmology presented to the academic public. It is based on Plato's distinction between mimesis and Diegesis in his work Politeia , but differs significantly from it. Diégèse , after Souriau, describes the space-time universe that opens a narrative text , a drama or a film ( l'univers d'une œuvre, le monde qu'elle évoque et dont elle représente une partie - “The universe of a work; the world, which it generates and of which it shows a section ”).

Anne Souriau goes even further and claims: "The word diegesia applies to all arts in which something is represented ( cinema , theater , figurative ballet , literature , painting and representative sculpture , program music , etc.)"

Especially when analyzing film music , the distinction between diegetic and non- diegetic (or diegetic-extradiegetic ) has been used frequently since then (does the music sound in the action or does it stand outside?). For example: background music is non-diegetic, music played by visible instruments (or sounding from visible speakers) is diegetic.

Distinctions of this kind are, however, central to all elements of a narrative: The fact that a narrator or a camera lifts a detail out of context has nothing to do with the narrated world, but with the world of the narrator who is interested in something specific and communicates this . The detail belongs to the narrated world, its emphasis not. Every narrative contains diegetic and non-diegetic elements.

In intermediality research , the distinction between diegetic and non-diegetic is often equated with the distinction between “technical process” and “human ingredient”; B. with a "non- diegetic" live commentary on a "diegetic" recording. It is often not taken into account that technical procedures are observers' conventions that do not yet contain any information about something observed.

The narrative theorist Gérard Genette took up the term diegesis and developed it further.

Genette terminology

Diegetic or intradiegetic is everything that belongs to the narrated world, according to Gérard Genette . A text can have more than one diegetic level, but as a rule the elements of the main plot are named with diegesis , if one can be determined.

“Narrative levels” can build on each other so that a hierarchy arises. In order to be able to separate different levels from one another, Genette introduces relational terms:

  • He calls the narrative level upstream of diegesia, for example the framework plot , extradiegetic .
  • The actual diegesis or narrative, the level on which the characters act, is called intradiegetic by Genette for better differentiation .
  • If, in turn, narratives are embedded in the intradiegesis, one speaks of internal narratives; Genette calls this level metadiegetic .

Genette also ties the various "narrative positions" to her relationship to Diegesis.

  • If the narrator is also a (secondary) character in the plot, he calls the narrator position homodiegetic .
  • If the narrator is even the protagonist of the plot, the narrative position is to be called autodiegetic as a special case of the homodiegetic position .
  • If the narrator does not appear in the plot itself, his position can be described as heterodiegetic .

The designations of the narrative levels and the narrator positions are independent of each other. A character can also assume different narrative positions on different levels: A narrator who tells autodiegetically on the extradiegetic level, i.e. reports a story in which he himself is the main character, can in turn be able to tell a story within this narrated story, the (intra-) diegesis Reporting history (metadiegesis), in which it does not occur, i.e. being a heterodiegetic narrator of the metadiegetic level on the intradiegetic level.

Terminology according to Souriau

According to Souriau, diegesis or diegetic is a separate dimension of the cinematic universe alongside:

  • the afilmic (the reality that exists “independently of the cinematographic fact”);
  • profile mixing (the filmed “objective reality”);
  • the filmographic (“all aspects of the finished film strip”);
  • the filmophanic ("everything that occurs during the audiovisual projection of the film");
  • the creative ("everything that concerns the production of the work");
  • as well as the spectatorial ("everything that happens subjectively in the mind of the spectator").

Related theories

A similar theory to differentiate the framework, which he called " frames " is called, has the American sociologist Erving Goffman by about 1,960 developed. However, he does not distinguish between fiction and everyday experience and treats everything unplanned as something that does not belong to diegesia. Accordingly, his theory is more likely to be picked up by sociology , although Goffman uses numerous examples from literature or film. (See also: fourth wall )


  • Étienne Souriau: La structure de l'univers filmique et le vocabulaire de la filmologie . In: Revue internationale de Filmologie , H. 7–8 (1951), pp. 231 - 240. - This text was reprinted (in German) in 1997 in montage / av and can be downloaded as a PDF .
  • Étienne Souriau (and Anne Souriau): Vocabulaire d'esthétique. Quadrige, Paris 2004, ISBN 2-13-054401-0 .
  • Gérard Genette: The story . Edited by Jochen Vogt. UTB, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-8252-8083-7 .
  • Erving Goffman: Framework Analysis. An attempt on the organization of everyday experience. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1980, ISBN 3-518-27929-7 .
  • Wolfgang Kemp : Work of art and viewer: the aesthetic reception approach . In: Art History - An Introduction . Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-496-01261-7 .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Gérard Genette: Die Erzählung, Fink Verlag, Munich 1998, pp. 201f.
  2. Étienne Souriau: The structure of the cinematic universe and the vocabulary of filmology . In: Montage / AV , 6/2/1997, p. 156
  3. a b Souriau gives no indication of its origin in his article from 1951, in which he first mentioned the term. Étienne Souriau: Vocabulaire d'esthétique . Presses universitaires, Paris 1990, p. 581.
  4. Étienne Souriau: The structure of the cinematic universe and the vocabulary of filmology . In: Montage / AV , 6/2/1997, p. 156 f.